Song of Blood and Stone by L. Penelope was the Written in Melanin Book Club pick for February 2020. The fun story behind this book is, I was walking through Barnes & Noble — being overwhelmingly disappointed by it’s lack of selection by black authors in anything other than YA I might add — and I walked by this book in the Sci-fi section.
I heard a little voice that said, “pick me”!
And that’s the whole story of how I ended up with this book. Now, on to actually telling you about it!
It’s a bit of a challenge to say what this book is about because it’s not just about one thing. There are a lot of facets and moving parts (so to speak) in this book and that’s honestly what makes it so great. So, let me break it down for you.
- You have Jasminda and Jack. Jasminda is a simple girl just trying to get by after losing her family — she’s only just trying to get through her day. She meets a man on the road who is badly injured. Being the good person she is, she heals him — this man is Jack. He is a spy for the military and knows information about an impeding war and needs to get back to the city to report.
Without giving too much away, this fateful meeting does not lead to a parting of ways once he’s healed. Jasminda is dragged into his problems full-force.
- You have Ella and Benn. Ella has been married to Benn for about six years, but he’s a solider in the army and is currently deployed. She’s not a citizen of Elsira, so she’s not allowed to leave her city of Portside until she has citizenship papers. But, when her sister sends her an urgent telegram letting her know that she’s having a baby and needs her, she risks everything to get to her.
Again, without giving too much away, Ella is pulled into a world of power, betrayals, schemes and dangerous ambitions while doing everything she can to keep her family together.
- There is the Queen Who Sleeps and the True Father. The True Father is an evil tyrant who wants to take over all of Elsira but is restricted by the Mantle, a magical barrier meant to protect the Elsirians from him. But the Mantle is going to fall, and the only way to stop him is to wake the Queen Who Sleeps. But she’s been sleeping for 500 years and no one knows how to do that, or really, who the Queen really is.
All of these aspects of the story are told simultaneously and blended delightfully to paint the full picture of the world these characters live in. It’s detailed without feeling monotonous and it’s more than just about the war. It’s about love, relationships, family, trust, pride, morals — how good people can be led to corruption — how strong people can also be the weakest of the bunch — and how the most inconspicuous of people can have a hand in controlling the fate of an entire nation.
This book was wonderful, to say the least. It’s the first of a series — I plan to read all of it — and if you are a fan of worlds you want to be a part of — characters you want to meet — high stakes situations, impossible decisions, mixed in with a dash of magic and romance, then this book is for you.
Spoilers after this! If you haven’t read the book, now would be a good place to stop.
Because this book is so full of amazing moments, and has so many layers to it, I don’t really even know where to begin breaking down the information. So, I’m just going to jump to the highlights 😂
- Jasminda was strong and true to who she was the entire book.
- Jack struggled with his role as the Prince Regent and didn’t just “fall into place”.
- The politics of high society felt believable — there were repercussions and the power of people in high places were still limited. No one had absolute power.
- Jasminda and Jack fall in love over the course of the book and not in one fell swoop.
- Ella is quirky and strong and frustrating, but also very loveable.
- Benn makes the right decision about his family at the end of the book.
- The amount of magic and how it works is SO well-thought-out it feels like it was just MEANT to be that way.
- The lore of the world is INCREDIBLE and the tidbits you get at the beginning of each chapter is priceless.
- Every character feels like they have a life and the way the characters are interconnected and lightly woven into the outskirts of other’s lives is amazing. No character is wasted in this book.
- The story behind the Queen Who Sleeps and the True Father was kind of mind blowing to be honest.
My absolute favorite aspect of the story was that the Queen Who Sleeps was just a woman. She wasn’t some god or infallible. She was just a woman in circumstances that spiraled out of control from what she thought was a good deed. The simplicity in how everything started compared to how it ended up was masterful in my opinion.
I genuinely enjoyed this book from start to finish and would recommend it to anyone who has a love of magic and likes to see it manifested in unexpected ways. Also, if you like new worlds with complete histories, religions, holidays, cultures, etc. this book will hit each one of those spots.
I also loved that it falls into more than one genre. This is a sci-fi / fantasy, to be sure, but there’s also a lot of romance and it’s woven into the book perfectly. It’s just another aspect of life in this world, not necessarily the forefront of the story and I think that’s a refreshing thing. And there’s more than one type of love. Jasminda and Jack are young romantic love, Benn and Ella are established familiar love, Ella and her nephew are parental / familial love, the refugees are group / shared pain and experience love. There’s just a lot of goodness melded into this book and I recommend it.
You can hear an interview with L. Penelope about the book on the Written in Melanin YouTube channel. You can check out the channel here.
That’s my two cents on this book — spend it how you like!
Until next time, may your days be lovely and your books interesting.