Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope (Earthsinger Chronicles #1)

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, YA

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press on May 1, 2018

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind.

  

Penelope’s SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is the first book in a fantasy romance series that explores racial discrimination, the atrocities of war, and what it means to belong.

Set in an alternate 1920s, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE follows two very different young people trying to save their kingdom from invasion. As a mixed-race young woman with the ability to wield Earthsong, Jasminda is hated in the majority-white, magic-fearing kingdom of Elsira. When she rescues Jack, a fellow Elsiran and a military man just returned from a dangerous mission in their enemy nation Lagrimar, she sets events in motion that will change the world as she knows it.

Ruled by a cruel dictator known as the True Father, Lagrimar represents the other in SONG OF BLOOD & STONE. Elsirans hate and fear the Lagrimari for their religion, their magic, and the colour of their skin…even the refugees who have escaped certain death in Lagrimar to seek sanctuary in Elsira. The commentary on the treatment of refugees is clear, but I didn’t find it heavy-handed. Try as they might, Elsirans can’t ignore or oversimplify the Lagrimari forever: the magical barrier known as the Mantle that prevents the True Father’s armies from invading Elsira is weakening with each passing day. If Jasminda can’t harness her weak Earthsong magic to shore up the Mantle, her life, such as it is, will be over.

Jasminda is far and away the best developed character, and she’s a very easy one to love. Despite how often she’s belittled and excluded, Jasminda remains empathetic and brave. It disgusted me to see how her neighbours treated her with contempt, hatred, and fear, but I felt so proud of her every time she stood her ground. And more than anything, I respect a heroine with such a practical nature! Jasminda’s so practical, in fact, that she’s shocked when she finds herself falling in love with Jack as their mission progresses. Her own family history has taught her that a romance between a full-blooded Elsiran and someone who’s half-Lagrimari will never be supported by society.

SONG OF BLOOD & STONE being a fantasy romance, the relationship between Jasminda and Jack is the main feature of the story. Thankfully I found them pretty cute together despite my initial wariness (there’s some major insta-lust), and their feelings for one another were well-developed. The prejudice Jasminda faces as a mixed-race person aside, Jack’s background is also a considerable obstacle for them; I was quite pleased that Jasminda in particular showed a lot of maturity when dealing with the imbalance of power in their relationship. Jack is a sweet guy and I liked him, but I found his naivety in the face of all he’d seen in war quite frustrating. Wake up and realize that your country is deeply racist!

My only serious complaint about SONG OF BLOOD & STONE is its anti-climactic “final battle” scene. Jasminda and Jack spend almost the entire book journeying, training, and preparing to face off against the Lagrimari forces trying to break through the Mantle…but the battle itself is over in the blink of an eye. Come on, y’all! I was also disappointed by the borderline deus ex machina that allowed Jasminda and Jack to be together formally and officially, but I can let that one go. Especially in light of the explosive epilogue!

Overall, SONG OF BLOOD & STONE by L. Penelope is a strong, if flawed, start to an intriguing new fantasy romance series. People looking for lovable characters, solid writing, and an exploration of social issues in fantasy should pick this one up!

Have you read SONG OF BLOOD & STONE? What books would you recommend that deal with social issues like racial discrimination? Let me know in the comments below!

22 thoughts on “Review: Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope

    1. Oh yeah, people seem really torn on this one! Even though there were some things that bugged me, I still liked it and I’m definitely eager to read the sequel. Here’s hoping you do enjoy it, Karen!

  1. I was excited to see you review this one, Danya, because it’s one I’ve had my eye on. I think it sounds fairly well done and it deals with timely topics for certain. I’m happy that you were pleased with it overall. I’ll have to pick it up. 🙂

    1. Hooray, glad to hear that my review was helpful Brandee! I love it when a genre book can deal with contemporary issues without feeling too heavy handed, and Song of Blood & Stone pulls that off for sure. I hope you like it! 🙂

  2. I recently just finished this too, with my review to be posted soon. I think I would have liked it a lot more had I been more of a romance reader. I really enjoyed how it started, but slowly the romantic drama started to take over, and I became less enamored with the story after that 😀

    1. Yeah, this one is fantasy romance, heavy on the romance. LOL. Even I was a bit tired of the romantic drama at points, and I love me a good romance. I am quite keen to read about the second couple that was teased in the epilogue, though!

  3. IS THAT WHAT THE WORLD WAS? MAGICAL 1920s? I was so confused because of the dated (to our standards) technology, thank you for solving that for me.

    I agree about the insta-lust because troublesome, but they were really cute together so I forgave it. And I do agree that the battle happened to quickly. I actually had to reread that passage a few times.

    1. YES! AT LEAST I THINK SO. 😂 At first I thought it was way older, but then all these oldschool cars and planes started showing up. 100%, I can forgive instalust if the couple ends up being cute. Otherwise… no bueno. The finale was a letdown, hopefully the action is more intense in book 2!

  4. I actually have a review copy of this and I haven’t gotten to it yet… I kind of forgot why I’d requested it but your review is certainly reminding me what intrigued me with it. I mean, I didn’t realise it was set in a magical 1920s. I basically knew nothing about this book. It does sound good, I really appreciate when there’s a good fantasy book addressing real world problems as well and race is one that we need to keep looking at because folks just aren’t getting it. It sucks the ending was a bit of a let down. I’ve had that before where a book was building up to a big battle that just wasn’t worth it in the end.

  5. It’s great when an author can balance the message/commentary in a book without making it too heavy handed. I don’t mind insta-lust though, since that’s easy to believe, as long as the deeper feelings develop slower! Anti-climactic climaxes can definitely be a disappointment, but usually not enough to ruin a book for me, especially if it’s a series. This sounds like a great book!

  6. I felt the same about the anti-climactic ending. I did find a lot of love for the mythology woven in to the background and romance ( though, Jack did a few things that frustrated me for sure! ) but overall I thought it was a strong debut.

    1. I’m glad it wasn’t just me! The mythology was awesome, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it in the sequel. Jack was definitely frustrating at points, but I forgave him in the end too!

  7. I haven’t yet read this one, but Jasminda sounds damned amazing! And yeah, not being heaving handed and still imparting a message is a fine line some authors just go way over — but this one seems to have found their balance.

    1. She really is, Verushka! People who respond with compassion and kindness even when they’re persecuted truly blow my mind. I wouldn’t say this was light on the message, but it certainly wasn’t too much either. I’m going to call that a win! 🙂

  8. I’ve had my eye on this one and now… You’ve done it again. My poor TBR just grows and grows whenever I stop by your blog! Ha ha.

    I hate it when a book lets you down at the end though, so I can definitely see why this one wasn’t amazing… But I will still be looking forward to it and going in to it knowing a little more!

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