Originally, L. Penelope published Song of Blood & Stone under her own publishing house, Heartspell. In 2016, it earned attention from the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO), where a team of prominent fantasy book bloggers evaluate 300 enlisted fantasy titles and review the very best of them. Song of Blood & Stone was so popular St. Martin’s Press picked it up and is now publishing it mainstream with a few changes.
This book is a self-made success. L. Penelope sent it out into a massive vat stuffed with dross and chaff and it rose organically out of obscurity because readers loved it. And I’m torn, because I want to champion it, too, but I’m sorry, I can’t do it.
Song of Blood & Stone is a story about a mixed race heroine, who wields magic in the form of “earth song” in a world divided by a magic veil. Government on one side allows magic (with reservation) and the other side finds a way to siphon it away, ultimately enslaving and exploiting its possessors.
There is an interesting refugee component to the book, but it doesn’t shine. The author props it up — I think unsuccessfully — on the back of a sweet, but unoriginal and not compelling, fairytale romance. The result is a mediocre story that resorts to cheap devices to pull the reader through.
I’m not saying L. Penelope can’t write. Song of Blood & Stone easily clears the bar for mainstream publishing quality prose. The story is cohesive and highly readable, but L. Penelope didn’t really love at least half of her tale. Her prologue showed a lot of promise, but she didn’t follow through. Ultimately undemanding, fairytale adoring readers will love this book and the mixed race heroine adds a little bit of freshness, but I have to wonder what Penelope might have done if she really set her plot to serious rigor. The talent is there and I look forward to seeing future work.
I don’t usually spoil, but I have to ask, HIGHLIGHT HERE TO SEE SPOILER: Did anyone else notice the obvious real life parallel to a certain ginger haired, military serving No. 2 royal?