Fleeing from a fictitious Renaissance Venice on the back of the flying lion Vermithrax, the orphaned Merle is persuaded by the Flowing Queen, the mysterious entity that had for so long protected Venice from the besieging Egyptian armies but now inhabits Merle’s body, to seek help from Lord Light, the ruler of Hell. Back in Venice, a small rebel army is gathering under the guidance of another mysterious power who is determined to protect the city against the Egyptian army whatever the cost. The pharaoh is also beset by treachery from within his own forces. How will all these competing forces be resolved?
The answer is they won’t. The Stone Light is the second book in the Dark Reflections trilogy by Kai Meyer. The first book set up an intriguing and mysterious Venice, and just when the action started the book ended. It wasn’t even really a cliffhanger, but rather felt like the publisher had decided to hack a long novel into three short books. This second book exacerbates the problem of the first. It reads like a fancy cocktail party, where the host is taking you around and introducing you to a bunch of important people, and hinting at dark secrets and hidden pasts in between walking you from room to room. This entire book is exposition. None of the major story lines get advanced in a meaningful way and just when we get to the point that we know the backstory on all the major characters that Meyer has introduced, the story again stops. There is no meaningful conclusion, and there is no way for The Stone Light to stand alone outside of its place in the series.
The prose is beautifully rendered (this is a translation into English by Elizabeth Crawford), and Meyer does a lovely job with world building, but at this point I am so irritated by the lack of meaningful action and the wretched job of plot development in each book that I am not sure I will pick up the third book in the series.
Dark Reflections — (2005-2007) Young adult. Publisher: Winged stone lions fly through the skies of an imagined Venice, which is besieged by the armies of a revived Egyptian Pharaoh. Orphans Merle and her blind friend Junipa are apprenticed to Arcimboldo, the maker of mysterious mirrors, and find his housekeeper, Unke wears a mask to hide her mermaid’s wide mouth of sharp shark’s teeth. Merle carries a mirror made of water, and Unke feels the vibration of her connection with the mystical Flowing Queen who protects the Venice lagoon. In the mirror Junipa sees something she cannot tell. Meeting the attractive pickpocket Serafin, Merle overhears corrupt Venetian councilors making a deal with the Egyptians, over a flask containing the essence of the Flowing Queen. Serafin is caught, but Merie flees with the flask and is convinced by the Queen to drink its contents, and from then on carries the Flowing Queen inside her. Envoys from Hell — in this world, a real, geographical place — arrive in Campo San Marco, demanding Venice forms an alliance with Hell, or be destroyed. Vermithrax, one of the last talking stone lions, whisks Merle up from the burning piazza, and away over the mountains to find help…