Book review: The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter

Title: The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers

Publication date: 7 April 2020

Genre: Fantasy | Young Adult

Page extent: 304 pages


Goodreads blurb: In a land of myth and ice, seventeen-year-old Runa Unnursdóttir is not the runecaster her clan has been hoping for. She spends her days daydreaming of sailing away and exploring the world instead of studying the runes and learning her spells. The villagers consider her odd, in looks and in manner. She’s nothing like her talented sister, Sýr, keeper of the sacred moonstone that ensures the village’s continued survival. But when a rival clan led by an evil witch raids the village and kidnaps her sister, Runa is forced to act. With a fallen Valkyrie by her side, and the help of a gorgeous half-elf Runa is not quite sure she can trust, the apprentice must travel to the site of an ancient runecasting competition to try to win back the magical gem. But the journey will not be easy; the three unlikely companions encounter malevolent and supernatural creatures at every turn. Somehow, Runa must summon the courage and strength to face her destiny, a destiny she never wanted. Or die trying.

Thank you to Orca Book Publishers for providing me a digital eARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Stone of Sorrow is a beautiful glimpse into Icelandic mythology, the magic of runecasting and the love between sisters. I really enjoyed these elements, but thought some areas of the book lacked tension.

Runa is a runecasting apprentice, and not a very good one she believes, training under her sister. Her sister is a powerful runecaster who currently holds the moonstone, a powerful rune which clans compete for every red moon. When Runa’s clan is attacked just days before the competition and her sister kidnapped by a witch, Runa must find her courage and travel across the land to save her sister and win back the moonstone.

My favourite thing about this novel was the look into Icelandic mythology. I loved the encounters with different creatures of myth, from the skoffin, a secretive fox who can kill if you look it in the eyes, to the marbendills, half fish half human, to Oski, the Valkyrie that assists Runa with her quest, to the elves, the magical, persuasive, dangerous creatures who try to trick humans into staying with them forever. These creatures were a delight to discover and explore, and some of my favourite characters were these creatures. One such creature I really liked was Pila, an elf. We only meet Pila for a short time, but I already adore that elf and really want to see more of them in the next books!

I also really liked Runa’s character growth across the book. She starts off as this very unsure and nervous character, one who hates herself. She’s had odd dreams and fits since she was born and thinks she’s completely broken, but over the journey to save her sister, her friends help her and she begins to see she’s stronger than she thought, finding her confidence and her power as the book progresses. I really loved the focus on her relationship with her sister. YA so often focuses on romance (and that’s actually one of the areas I think the book should have not focused on), but it did also have a really strong focus on this wonderful sister relationship. They are both so protective of each other, and I just really appreciated that the whole reason for Runa going on this quest was her sister. Sure, the moonstone and her clan also plays a part, but the main reason Runa finds the strength to leave is to rescue her sister, and I loved that!

As mentioned above, I don’t think the romance was needed. For Runa, half the novel was spent talking about how she doesn’t want marriage, doesn’t feel any love or crushes, and then suddenly she wants to be with someone? I think it would have been stronger if the two had been kept as friends, to put even greater importance and emphasis on the strong sister relationship.

I also think, despite how much I enjoyed the creatures encountered on the journey, it was quite slow at points and lacked tension. I think this is probably due to a lot of focus on more mundane activities like cooking and foraging for food, sleeping, bathroom activities etc. I know we do sometimes remark on how silly it is that fantasy characters never seem to do normal activities like this – but there’s a reason for that. It lowered the tension and made a lot of the journey feel a bit more mundane and boring.

All in all, this was an interesting exploration of Icelandic mythology and I’m interested to see where the series takes Runa now that she’s thirsting for blood and feeling more confident with her runecasting.

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