ARC Review: THE STONE KNIFE by Anna Stephens

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: Yes - first book
CW: blood, gore

Synopsis:

Book title for THE STONE KNIFE: title in dark green leaves below a burning stone shield

For generations, the forests of Ixachipan have echoed with the clash of weapons, as nation after nation has fallen to the Empire of Songs – and to the unending, magical music that binds its people together. Now, only two free tribes remain.

The Empire is not their only enemy. Monstrous, scaled predators lurk in rivers and streams, with a deadly music of their own.

As battle looms, fighters on both sides must decide how far they will go for their beliefs and for the ones they love – a veteran general seeks peace through war, a warrior and a shaman set out to understand their enemies, and an ambitious noble tries to bend ancient magic to her will.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

It took me two attempts to get into this book, and frankly trying to start a large (600 page!!!) book three days into counting the US election was probably not the best idea. As such, I had to come back and start again ten days later.

My main issue with this book was the sheer length. It was just so long and felt like it really lacked focus. I kept wondering what I was supposed to be rooting to happen, and waiting for something to happen that would grab me. Instead, the book just dragged on. I feel like the book could have been 200 pages shorter and thus more engaging. Once it fell to the inevitable battle, I lost all interest because it was two sides I didn’t care about fighting.

There were at least six POVs, on all different sides of the war, but I don’t know what the point of most of them was. What did Lilla add, for example? Given that the characters were on the opposite sides of the war, I think I was meant to be rooting for both sides? But I just ended up not caring about either. Enet was just too selfish for me to like her at all, and the others were mostly flat and emotionless. The only one I really liked was Tayan, but he fell out of prominence and impact in the second half.

I don’t know if this book is being called grim dark, but there wasn’t the grim hopelessness that feels necessary to me to merit that name. Instead it just felt excessively bloody, gory, and violent. The empire felt like it could be beaten, but wasn’t going to be as this was the first book, and the endless swearing just meant the words had no impact.

The world was about the only interesting bit of the book – a stone and jungle based world that I think (judging by names and environment) is loosely inspired by one of the empires native to South America. There are pyramids and blood sacrifices and words that conjured up that general vibe to me.

Well, considering I picked up the book with the intention of seeing if I was interested in reading her debut trilogy, at least I know I won’t be attempting them now.

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