Song of Blood and Stone
Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.
Let’s start with the history and context of this novel. Penelope self published a shorter version of her book which won the 2016 Self-Publishing eBook Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Fast forward several years later, Penelope lived out every indie author’s dream when St. Martin’s Press published the novel for mainstream consumption.
She is a black, woman, fantasy and science fiction author. Fans of the genre know she is a purple unicorn in a sea of zebras. Which means, she bears the burden of having to convince new readers to not only buy into her worldbuilding and magical system, she must also make the reader relate to her melanated character set. She must capture the attention of the reader in the first few pages, else land in the sad pile of #DNF fantasy books. Penelope succeeded.
Book One in the Earthsinger Chronicles establishes a believable and beautiful magical world that is incrementally revealed through beautiful prose, character flashbacks and present tense storytelling. Penelope complements the worldbuilding with a cryptic symbology grid at the beginning of the book as well as a map of the story’s world. I personally appreciate the holistic approach taken in providing a fully engaged reader experience through illustration (read: I like pictures!)
While the novel is a historical fantasy, the xenophobic, racist and sexist themes are relatable to the contemporary world. There is clear commentary as it relates to immigration, women’s sexuality and the role women play in leading revolutions. This book is not a damsel in distress trope.
The heroine, Jasminda, is well developed, well rounded and flawed. She suffers from imposter syndrome, and doesn’t give enough credit to her own acts of bravery. Yet, there is a bit of heroism in her for readers to admire, perhaps even strive to be more like. Jasminda has an “IT” factor.
The romance is STEAMY - it does NOT fade to black. Penelope’s build up is so intense that each page causes the right mixture of pain and expectation. Romance book lovers will enjoy the slow burn. So, if you’re looking for a great summer read to enjoy over a glass of wine when the kiddos are tucked in bed, get swept away with Song of Blood & Stone.
Review written by CoCo
Hardcover, 372 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by St. Martin's Press