What if you had the power to transform everything around you by tapping into the natural world with the power of song?
That’s the premise of L. Penelope’s latest book, Song of Blood and Stone- and one that sounded so promising that I picked it up (or whatever the Kindle version of that is) with great excitement.
The song itself is Earthsong: a magical ability passed down from generation to generation, right from the people that first created the world. However, Jasminda is the only person she knows that has it, and she lives in Elsira, a country where her magic is looked on with suspicion and hatred. But that’s about to change when Jack, an Elsiran, appears out of the mountains that border Lagrimar- a country whose people have the same magic, and are led by a mysterious tyrant who steals the power of his subjects.
For me, the story took a while to get going- though not because of the central characters. I loved both Jack and Jasminda- though they took a little while to warm up to. They’re warm, relatable and strong-willed, which definitely helps during the first third of the book, which I found dragged- and then sped up massively, as we were shunted through a mountain of exposition within the space of a couple of chapters.
I especially loved Jasminda, though: as a mixed-race heroine who battles injustice and prejudice, her struggles were especially relevant given the current refugee crisis, which the book itself explores in detail as the Elsiran government struggles to decide what to do with the Lagrimari refugees pouring over their border. She’s smart, resourceful and adamantly her own woman, which (for spoilery reasons I won’t divulge) becomes more and more admirable throughout the book. Like Jack, she’s more than capable of kicking a little ass.
For me, though the story really kicked into gear in the second half- and then I was hooked. We got stuck into the nuances of politics, duty, refugees and the struggle of following your heart rather than your head. Though Jack and Jasminda’s love was a little too perfect and ‘insta-lovey’ for my taste, the struggles that they go through, as war descends on Elsira, were great, and gripping, and very finely balanced, and kept me turning the pages as I tried to figure out whether Jack and Jasminda could outsmart the various people arrayed against them, or would be outsmarted.
The worldbuilding was another aspect I really enjoyed. By giving the struggle between Lagrimar and Elsira such a detailed past, we can really appreciate just how long and exhausting the war has been, and- through the help of flashbacks- we see how it started. That- alongside Earthsong- was really interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Penelope does with the world that she’s created, and what she’s going to do moving forward from that explosive ending.
Fresh, interesting and exciting, this is a magical whirlwind of a book that sweeps you along and challenges you to keep up in a world of myth, magic and power struggles. It’s definitely one that you should be adding to your Summer TBR.
In three words: myth. Magic. Fast-paced.