Book Review: ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE by Makiia Lucier

Title in yellow in front of a sea serpent's head in dark teal
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: Yes - first book

Synopsis:

Book cover for ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE: a line drawing of a sea serpent in blue with the gold title in front

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

I’d heard almost nothing about this book – it has no UK publisher or distributor, and I happened across it by chance. Therefore, I had no idea what to expect, but this is a book that deserves more attention; it is a gorgeous mystery that slow unfurls in a richly imagined world.

The mystery at the heart of the book was so intriguing. There are layers of little clues scattered throughout that are gradually drawn out as the stakes rise – along with the growing sense of shadowy opposition. It’s not a big action-packed book, and some scenes can feels like glimpses of daily life that must have a purpose but you won’t work it out until the “ah-hah” moment later on.

Despite the slower pacing and less obvious connections, it still had a lot of forwards momentum thanks to the ever-present mystery and all its consequences for the characters. They have such a good set of relationships, particularly how Ulises was so careful to protect his friendships despite his position. I loved the way that was handled, and how it showed just how isolating it must be for him. Often it feels like YA rulers take their relationships for granted, but it didn’t feel like that here. They are on the upper end of old for YA characters – 19 and 18 – but it made their responsibilities and seriousness feel more real than had they been 16.

There’s no magic in this book, but there are sea serpents that would give anyone a reason not to want to go swimming in the sea. The sea is such a large part of the world even though the book is set on dry land (an island, admittedly). It shows in little details like Elias having a tin of whale fat on him or the idioms used. It’s such an effective, and yet subtle, world building that makes it feel like it could be a part of our world.

It’s a secondary world that feels at least in part inspired by the Iberian Penisula (my gut says Spain as I’m far more familiar with it, but other reviews say Portugal). The names of characters and places, as well as the food eaten, as well as the age of discovery – with a big exploration into the uncharted seas about to set off with one of the ships called the Nina.

I am going to search for the companion book, SONG OF THE ABYSS, which follows one of the side characters, Reyna, when she’s seventeen.


Read my reviews of other books by Makiia Lucier:

Tower of Winds (this series):

Standalones:

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