Book Review: The Stone Knife

Anna Stephens

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

published: 26th November 2020
spoilers? nope


A fantasy epic of freedom and empire, gods and monsters, love, loyalty, honour, and betrayal, from the acclaimed author of GODBLIND.

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.

They said that the Drowned were the souls of the dead, angry that the living still walked beneath the sun, still breathed the air and ate the good food of the land.

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: gore, torture, violence, human sacrifice, animal death, child death, cannibalism

Usually, I think I’m pretty good at picking books I know I’ll like. Or rather, I don’t pick books I know I’ll actively dislike. So, I thought, with The Stone Knife, I had a shoo-in.

I did not have a shoo-in.

It’s hard to say exactly why I didn’t like this one. On the face of it, a slowburning adult fantasy with depth to its worldbuilding, I should have loved it. And it wasn’t really a mood thing, because I started this at the same time as another book I could thus describe.

I think the primary reason for me not getting along with this was the fact it’s 600 pages long and not a whole lot happens. I mean, things do happen, but nothing Happens. There was never any point where I thought oh shit and was, from then on, fully engaged. None of what happened in the plot grabbed me, none of it made me urgently want to read more. There weren’t really any questions that I had of the plot, if that makes sense. The events that happened in the book felt somewhat superficial, as if they had no underlying significance. Of course, this could well be just me. But I just felt that the narrative didn’t throw up any questions.

It’s entirely possible this is what bored me. It’s entirely possible I was bored well before that. Either way, it wasn’t really a gradual decline into boredom – it only took about the first 100 pages, really, for me to be able to tell it wouldn’t be for me. I think, actually, that length played a role too. Six hundred pages is a pretty big book, and there were at least seven POVs, so the story felt stretched out in a way that I didn’t enjoy. The plot slowed down (not that it was massively fast to begin with) and I – you guessed it! – got bored.

And there wasn’t anything like a final act holy fuck moment. Everything just went to shit, without any sort of hopeful twist to it. In all honesty, it felt like 600 pages of build up to a big event that never happened.

On top of this, it was also pretty gorey, and that’s not something I particularly like my fantasy to be.

None of this is not to say it’s a bad book, however; it just wasn’t a book for me. The worldbuilding was immersive and thorough (and had no homophobia!), and I did, somewhat, like the characters in the sense I didn’t want bad things to happen to them (and, predictably, bad things did happen). And, overall, I wish I had enjoyed it!

So, really, if this book sounds like something you would enjoy, just ignore my review.

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