Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Review: Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier


Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: Isle of Blood and Stone
  * Series: Isle of Blood and Stone #1
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: Hardcover; 400
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Source: FFBC Tours / Publisher
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Content Screening: Nothing of note.

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who like descriptive, slow-burn historical fiction.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
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.

Isle of Blood and Stone is the first book in a new duology by Makiia Lucifer, and the first Historical Fiction book that I've read this year. As a genre that I don't normally dip into, it should be noted that I'm still getting my bearings in books like this. It makes my reading of them take a little more effort than most other things, but I'm enjoying the ride. Which is why the fact that Isle of Blood and Stone is heavier on the history than on the fiction/fantasy side of things made this a bit of a rough read for me. I'm on the fence on this one, and I'll explain why below.

The story drops the reader directly into a day in the life of one Lord Antoni, with little to no explanation of why. It took me a minute to figure out that he was an important mapmaker, and that he was somehow linked to the royal family. Once I'd finally settled in a bit, and the big reveal of the chapter happened, the book suddenly fast forwarded eighteen years. So, to say that I started this book with no footing is pretty accurate. It took me another four or five chapters after that to really settle in, and feel like I had my bearings enough to enjoy the story.

What's great about this book though is that the characters are actually really intriguing, once you get to know them. Reyna, who was studying to be a mapmaker herself and unknowingly sets things in motion, made me pay attention. Once the discovery of the maps that may have been made by Lord Antoni, after his supposed death, came to light I was fully on board. By the time that Elias came fully into the picture, and the quest began in earnest, I was more than ready to follow along to the end.

Unfortunately, this is a really slow building story. I mentioned above that it's heavy on the historical portion of things, and that's definitely an accurate assessment. Action is scarce, and descriptions abound. The reader is taken back to the times of court politics and intrigue, but not in the way that I'm used to in the fantasy books I generally read. It's very heavily described, rather than shown. While the mystery aspect of this was good, it took so long for things to establish, and then longer still for things to pick up, that I found myself wanting to skim forward. I was invested enough to want to know how things turned out though, so that's a good sign.

Did I mention that I was on the fence? On the one hand, the ending ties back into the beginning and brings the characters and the plot full circle. All of my questions were finally answered, and I felt pretty satisfied. On the other hand, it took so long for me to actually settle myself into my surroundings at the beginning that it made things feel really slow. I see the potential here, and I liked the book enough to want to see what happens next. I only hope that the next portion of this story has a bit more action.

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FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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