Song of Blood & Stone
Earthsinger Chronicles, Book One
by L. Penelope
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 16 Jul 2019 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2020
St. Martin's Press, St. Martin's Griffin
A TIME 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time
A Time Magazine Best Fantasy Book of 2018
L. Penelope's Song of Blood & Stone is a treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers.
The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now, the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.
All Jasminda ever wanted was to live quietly on her farm, away from the prying eyes of those in the nearby town. Branded an outcast by the color of her skin and her gift of Earthsong, she’s been shunned all her life and has learned to steer clear from the townsfolk…until a group of Lagrimari soldiers wander into her valley with an Elsiran spy, believing they are still in Lagrimar.
Through Jack, the spy, Jasminda learns that the Mantle is weakening, allowing people to slip through without notice. And even more troubling: Lagrimar is mobilizing, and if no one finds a way to restore the Mantle, it might be too late for Elsira. Their only hope lies in uncovering the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps and Jasminda’s Earthsong is the key to unravel them.
Thrust into a hostile society and a world she doesn’t know, Jasminda and Jack race to unveil an ancient mystery that might offer salvation.
Average rating from 50 members
This is a wonderful story, set in a well developed fantasy world of magic and beauty. It switches from one point of view/ narrator to another. At first I couldn’t wait to pick up the previous thread of one of the main characters (Jasmines). However, I grew just as attached to Ella! And it took absolutely no time. This story really hooks you, and it does in its own unique way! At no point did I question the authenticity or creativity of the author. Really recommend this for anyone who enjoys adventure, romance, and magic. What set this apart for me is how easy of a read it was, but with themes of prejudice and isolation that felt like very mature content indeed.
The more Penelope revises this novel the better it gets. The story and characters seem more structured and you feel what there going through. This 1920's esque takes on what were facing in our own time right now. Immigration, sexism, racism, and much more and the author handles it all very well. Penelope is just a wonderful storyteller and I can't wait to read the next books in this series.
I was super excited when I received this in the mail. For one, look at that gorgeous cover? I’m not usually a fan of covers with models, but I’ll make an exception for this one. Beyond that, I was intrigued by the premise and am always stoked when I can find fantasy fiction featuring a diverse cast of characters. And while there were some slower moments, overall, I really enjoyed this read! The world is literally split in two by an impenetrable magic force field that has kept two warring civilizations separate for as long as anyone can remember, with only brief breaks of warfare every few centuries when the field falters. On one side, Elsira, a technologically advanced civilization has risen, longing for the day when their sleeping Queen will again awaken. On the other side, Lagamiri, a nation full of magic wielders who can control the elements, but who are ruled by a tyrannical and vicious God King. The prejudices are strong on each side. Jasminda, a daughter of both races, has grown up in a country where her skin marks her as the enemy, as an Earthsinger. She’s kept to herself these long years, finding isolation to be her best bet for a quiet life. That is until she meets Jack, an Elsiran soldier with his own secrets, but who also shows her that there are those out there who see her as more than just an “other.” I loved the world-building in this story. The idea of magic users vs. technology isn’t anything new, but what really added to this take on it was combining it with other prejudices, on both sides, and the fear and ignorance that can come from these sorts of long-standing built up generalizations about people. Throughout the story, we are also given glimpses into the ancient history of this world, and this is really what solidified the concept for me. Through these, we see that the world wasn’t always this way, and in fact many things had been turned on their heads. The origin story was compelling and each chapter was intro’d with little parables from this almost forgotten time. I particularly enjoyed how each parable loosely connected to the happenings of each chapter. Through this history and the current situation, Jasminda and Jack both portray different roles and experiences of segregation and prejudice. Jasminda has lived a life of not belonging. She’s grown up in a country that judges her for her skin color and her power, but it is her home. I enjoyed how much this fact was hit home. Just because she looked like those on the other side of the wall, didn’t mean she would be any more welcome there or that that should in any way be her place, based on only one part of her being. Jack, as an advocate and an example of a more tolerant and enlightened individual, still must learn to understand the true battles that those like Jasminda face. His idealism is often based in naivety. But through him, Jasminda, too, learns that not everyone is as they seem, and that there may be a way forward for both peoples together. The story also had a strong through line on the experiences of refugees, and the terrible choices they face. Here, many Lagamiri secretly cross the border, hoping to escape the terror that is their homeland. This choice isn’t only leaving behind all they have known, but is to willing walk into a country knowing they will face a different kind of persecution there. They live in camps and face many injustices at the hands of a struggling nation looking for someone to blame. And yet, this is still a better choice than the horrors that wait back home. For all of these positives, I did struggle with a few things. While the story took on some big concepts, giving detailed focus and attention to these challenges, I never quite felt connected to the story. Jasminda and Jack, while interesting protagonists, were each a little too perfect to feel real. They were just kind of…fine. I wasn’t hugely invested in their individual struggles, but happy to go along for the ride. The story also isn’t helped out by a few strange choices with pacing and explanations for the magic system. The plot would zip through a few key moments, with very little clarity on what was actually taking place, and then suddenly move very slowly through other, more character-driven scenes. I think this is likely a show of where the author’s true interests and talents as a writer lie, but it makes for a rather bumpy reading experience. Also, at different times, it felt like distances on the map changed drastically, or didn’t match with the expanse of the world that we’re told exists. It seemed, at times, that the entire country could be traveled in only a few hours, which doesn’t make sense given the references to geographical elements and the population that is hinted at. Further, while the magic system was interesting, I struggled to understand how it actually worked. For example, it was referenced several times that Earthsingers couldn’t kill with their magic, but could use the elements in every other way. But what does that actually look like? If they sent fire at someone, wouldn’t that still be killing with their magic? Or does it do nothing, and if that’s the case, then what power does that actually give them? I found it confusing, especially given the fact that this restriction was referenced more than once. The romance, kind of like the two main characters, was also a bit too perfect. For all of theirs struggles, Jasminda and Jack’s love is never really the complicated or tragic “Romeo and Juliet” story that we’re promised. I enjoyed the romance, don’t get me wrong, but I think the misleading description played against it, in the end. All in all, I very much enjoyed “Song of Blood and Stone.” It’s a great example of fantasy fiction tackling bigger topics like diversity, prejudice, and the challenges faced by refugees. However, there is a large focus on romance, so readers who don’t enjoy those elements might want to avoid this one, and the characters are also a bit flat. Rating 7: Even with some missteps, would still recommend it based on the strengths of the challenges it addresses, especially set against an interesting fantasy backdrop.
Blending the wisdom of ancient parables, anthropomorphic fables, and the sacredness of organized religious philosophies with recurring themes in the endless cycles of human conflict, L. Penelope has composed a symphony that resonates across time and space with its essential truths. Song of Blood & Stone evokes the emotional gravitas of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant, and Tanya Huff’s Four Quarters stories while projecting its own distinctive voice. Toss in some magical realism, a spin on Sleeping Beauty, and a little steampunk. Age-wise Jasminda, the struggling farmer, and Jack, the military commander, are young adults, but the story threads weave a mature tale of political intrigue, personal betrayals, misdirection, and complicated romantic entanglements—along with unexpected consequences. Singers versus the Silent. Elsira versus Lagrimar. The Sleeping Queen versus the True Father. Each chapter begins with a parable that sets the tone for the next movement in this beautifully orchestrated work about the haves and the have-nots. The U.S. or Venezuela or Darfur—anyplace where there’s currently a battle raging about equitable access to resources and opportunities to thrive could stand in for the fictional nations of Elsira and Lagrimar. On page 292 one of the main characters thinks, “It was as if history and myth had intertwined somehow, and vital facts had been lost or obscured.” With the modern environment of Fake News in mind, the author reminds readers of the cascading impacts of information filtered through assorted biases across generations and around the world. It can generate results like playing a global game of Telephone/Chinese Whispers. Song of Blood & Stone launches the Earthsinger Chronicles into its own stratosphere of energetic storytelling. Fingers crossed that the second entry in this series reveals more about the mysterious catalyst characters who make pivotal cameos.