Welcome welcome everyone to the Isle of Blood and Stone blog tour, in which book nerds across the internet come together to share our love of this high-stakes fantasy that releases this Tuesday! For my stop, I’m sharing a review along with my favorite quotes, and since this adventure is threaded with both humor and tension, there were plenty to choose from. If you want to check out some other blogs, you can follow along with the rest of the tour here, and don’t forget to read to the bottom of this post for a giveaway!
Let’s chart a course for Bookland! (+10 points to me for staying on theme)
Ulises asked, “How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers.”
Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. “It’s bound to be a goose chase. You know that?”
“Or a treasure hunt,” Ulises countered, “and you’ve always been good at those.”
Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar’s oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way…until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.
The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias’s father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king’s beautiful cousin by his side – whether he wants her there or not – Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried…and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.
About the Author
Makiia is the author of historical fiction and historical fantasy for young adults. She grew up on the Pacific Island of Guam (not too far from the equator), and has degrees in journalism and library science from the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, was called a “powerful and disturbing reading experience” by Publishers Weekly. It was a finalist for Germany’s top book prize for children, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, as well as Japan’s Sakura Medal, and was named an ABC Best Books for Children Selection by the American Booksellers Association.
Her second novel, Isle of Blood and Stone, will be available in Spring 2018.
Connect with the Author
My favorite quotes are interspersed in here. They’re in the extra big call-out text style, can’t miss ’em!
If there’s one thing fantasy readers love, it’s a map in the front of the book. And while Isle of Blood and Stone absolutely has that (you can see it on the author’s website!), it takes things one step further by not only making the main character, Elias, a skilled mapmaker, but by making maps themselves an integral part of the story. The strong emphasis on cartography sets Isle of Blood and Stone apart from other fantasy/adventure books, and the subject matter was skillfully incorporated to permeate every part of the story. Small details like what plants make certain colors of pigment, or the significance of a cartouche are not just sprinkled in as trivia; they actively contribute to Elias’s quest to unravel the mystery of the missing princes.
Side note: the fact that I googled “rhumb lines” to better understand Elias’s world is a testament to how interesting the author made cartography, because my skill with anything other than theme park maps is this:
Rhumb lines, for the record, are “an imaginary line on the earth’s surface cutting all meridians at the same angle, used as the standard method of plotting a ship’s course on a chart.”
But aside from the fascinating academic aspects, the relationships and characters in Isle of Blood and Stone are what really make it a success. Elias has a penchant for getting into trouble, though it’s often a result of trying to help someone else. In fact, we first meet him in the midst of a cockfight, except the winnings aren’t to benefit him. When he is found by the king’s cousin, Mercedes, and Commander Aimon…
“‘Commander, I’ve just come off the ship. I haven’t had time yet to cause you grief.’
‘Don’t disregard your talents so quickly.'”
His brashness carries through the story, incurring numerous selfless scrapes with injury and near-death.
“If he had been careless, he had also been kind.”
Elias’s loyalty is another commendable quality that drives much of his motivation when the maps alluding the princes’ and his father’s survival are discovered. His primary loyalty isn’t to his birth father, who disappeared when Elias was one, but to his current family. If Lord Antoni is actually still alive, his mother, beloved stepfather and half-siblings will face severe consequences for bigamy and illegitimacy, however unintentional.
However, he is also a trusted friend of King Ulises, and heaven knows those are few and far between.
“He has people who wish to be close to him because he is king…When things are peaceful, everyone dances attendance, everyone makes promises, and everyone would die for him so long as death is far off.”
Ulises, too, feels the weight of what could happen should the clues prove true. He’s the third son, and stands to lose his crown if either of his elder brothers are still alive. But he refuses to live in ignorance, and convinces reluctant Elias to pursue the mystery. The delicate balance of their friendship vs the hierarchy of a king and his subject is explored, with occasional tension between their disparate statuses countered by humor and antics.
I also really enjoyed the character Reyna, a young, would-be explorer except dang it she’s a girl. Her sweet innocence and dogged tenacity were a wonderful combination, as she strives to gain access to the opportunities her (occasionally less-qualified) male peers are given.
“I don’t like knowing less than the boys, just because I’m not one.”
She shares Elias’s thirst for adventure and uncharted horizons, and her youth provides a counterpoint to the older characters who have been weighed down by the still-lingering effects of the princes’ disappearance, including a devastating war.
“I would go everywhere.”
– Reyna, when asked where she would go if she could sail off today.
I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first; I thought it took a bit to get going, but once certain pieces starting falling together I was 100% invested. I think I was expecting the book to move us away from the initial setting of the capital city; after all, Elias is an adventurer. However, much of the mystery-solving takes place in and around the same city, which is fine, but since I erroneously thought we’d be moving elsewhere, I felt like things stagnated for a bit. Things are established for grand adventures abroad in a yet-untitled book 2, though, so fingers crossed for that!
Isle of Blood and Stone is a solid opener for this fantasy duology, with a satisfactory ending (no cliffhanger, THANK GOODNESS) yet plenty of intriguing things left to explore in the next installment. While many secrets were brought to light in this book, some new secrets were also created, and I’m extremely interested to see if they are uncovered in the future, because they have the potential to tear even the closest of friends apart.
“‘I am so tired of secrets.’
‘Then do not keep them.'”
These layered secrets introduce thought-provoking questions of moral ambiguity – to what degree can a person be classified as good or evil? Does one bad act have the power to override dozens or even hundreds of good acts? Elias and King Ulises in particular must wrestle with this question, and in some cases come to startlingly different conclusions, though I can’t say if one is more right than the other.
“Bad men are capable of generous acts. It’s a rare person who is completely evil. The reverse is also true. A good man may commit a terrible thing and spend the rest of his life trying to set things right.”
Isle of Blood and Stone stands out from the crowd for its well-researched inclusion of cartography, and the complex relationships and layered backgrounds of its characters. This story is fully satisfying, but it will also leave you eager for more of this world. In the same way Elias is drawn to a blank space on a map, I’ve been drawn to want to read more about what’s on the horizon for him and everyone else in Isle of Blood and Stone.
Thanks for joining me for my tour stop! Don’t forget…
- 1 copy of ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE by Makiia Lucier
- US Only