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The Stone Knife by Anna Stephens – ARC Review!

Goodreads Synopsis

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.

Review!

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher via Netgalley and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I had little expectations going into this book. Having never read anything by Anna Stephens before I wasn’t prepared for the sheer brutality, the wonderfully diverse well built characters and a world that is almost written into being. I don’t think it will come across as too much of a surprise to say I loved it. Told from multiple perspectives both from The Tokob and The Empire of Songs, Stephen’s weaves together a plot so intricate you struggle to differentiate between friend and foe. She writes brilliant diverse & well fleshed out characters. There are ones you will love & ones you will love to hate but each perspective plays a vital part in the story, even if it isn’t obvious from the beginning:

Xessa is an eja, an elite band of Tokoban warriors whose job is is to deal with the drowned, Human like beings that live in the water and seduce people to their death through their song. Xessa’s deafness makes her uniquely suited to the task and along with her eja partner, Toxte and her loyal dog Ossa she spends her days ensuring water for the Sky City. She leads a relatively simple life surrounded by her loved ones, but would do anything to protect those she loves.

Lilla is a Fang, a leader of a Tokoban paw of warriors. His job as of late has been trawling the jungle looking for Yalotlan refugees and ending the lives of any rogue Empire warriors that venture too far. He longs for the war to be over so he can spend time with his husband and other loved ones. He is both brutal on the battlefield and caring at home, but he will need to rely on his brutality in the war to come.

Tayan, a Tokob Shamen and husband to Lilla. His job is to converse with the Gods and when they tell him to take a Peace Weaving company to The Empire of Songs he knows how vital a job it is. He is unprepared for the scheming of the Empire’s people, nor for how the Song will effect him. When he realises the Empire has no intention of Peace he races back to those he loves hoping he isn’t too late, only to find more unrest in Tokob itself, unrest that may be their undoing.

Enet, courtesan & High Octave to the Singer. She is a prime position to affect the Singers mood, thoughts and decisions. She is a schemer to the bone, using her influence to reduce her enemies in the council one by one, until one day she does something that she cannot take back, something that effects the song as well as the Singer, and something that has far reaching consequences.

Pilos, The High Eagle. He is the leader of the Singer’s warriors, and simply wants to see the Empire his Singers wishes come to fruition. He is more than aware of Enet’s scheming, and hopes that one day she digs herself too deep a hole to climb out of. He see’s those not under the Song as lesser, and uses all of his strength and persuasion to convince them to join.

Illandeh, a Yalotlan refugee in Tokob. Her’s is a perspective we don’t really hear from until around 40% of the way through but her actions lead to me shouting WTF loud enough for my sister to feel the need to come check on me.

The Singer, the ruler of the Empire of Song. It is his Song the people hear and feel. His Song that ensures all under the Song are complaint, his might that will bring all of Ixachipan together, ensuring peace across the continent. But when one day his Song changes, his needs become insatiable and his Song seeds unrest amongst those in the Empire.

Man this book is brutal! Stephens writing is incredibly descriptive… even in the parts you might not want it to be. Her depictions of fights, both on the battlefield and off were astounding and at some points a little creepy. It took me a while to get into the swing of the story. She writes some long chapters and the different tribes/magic etc took a little to get used to. But once I got to around 20% I was hooked. The world building is sublime & the magic system is so unique and brilliantly written.

The Stone Knife has it all, brilliantly developed and diverse characters, plot twists that will have you shouting out loud, romance, political intrigue and dogs! This months reading has been filled with Epic Fantasy and I am incredible eager to get my hands on the sequel.

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