ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE by Makiia Lucier
(This book was sent for review courtesy of Houghton Mifflian Harcourt Books for Young Readers)
Hello, everyone! I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I finished reading ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE over Thanksgiving break, and I couldn’t wait to start writing my review of it.
First off, I’d like to send a thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, as well as Emma Gordon, for being kind enough to send a review copy.
Where to begin? ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE is a heart-pounding historical adventure that follows Elias, Ulises, and Mercedes as they try to uncover the mystery surrounding the murder of the two princes. I had never read many historical fantasy books because I wasn’t sure if I would like the genre, but Makiia Lucier’s ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE certainly made a believer out of me. If you’re a fan of movies like Prince of Persia, Troy, and Indiana Jones, you will fall head-over-heels in love with this book.
(Here is a short summary taken from Amazon.com:
Eighteen years ago two princes of the island kingdom of St. John del Mar were kidnapped and murdered, a deadly plot by the rival kingdom of Mondrago. Everyone knows the story, but for Elias, Mercedes, and Ulises, the aftermath of that tragic day is deeply personal. Elias grew up without his father, who was killed trying to protect the princes. Mercedes is half-Mondragan, leaving her to grow up in the shadow of del Mar’s hate. And Ulises, as the youngest and only remaining prince, inherited the throne meant for his older brothers. Now, the three friends just want to move on with their lives. But when two maps surface—each with the same hidden riddle—troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young princes? And why do the maps look like they were drawn by Elias’s father, whose body was never found? To discover what really happened that fateful day, Elias, Mercedes, and Ulises must follow the clues hidden in the maps, uncovering long-held secrets and unimaginable betrayals along the way. But the truth is dangerous, and not everyone wants it to come out. Isle of Blood and Stone is a sweeping fantasy full of intrigue and schemes, romance and friendship, and fearless explorers searching for the truth.)
Whenever books have maps near the front pages, I know I’m going to be in for a great read. I’ve never read a book with a map that I didn’t like, and ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE is no exception. In fact, what I loved about this book is that the map is literally the main plot point of the story.
Elias is a mapmaker whose father died after trying to protect the princes, Ulises is a young king who wants to uncover the truth behind his brothers’ deaths, and Mercedes is a cousin to Ulises and a no-nonsense emissary.
These three have a great friendship, and I enjoyed reading more about it as the story progressed. I was so happy when I found out that there wasn’t going to be any kind of a love triangle between Mercedes and the two boys, because I didn’t think I could take another poorly executed love triangle. Thank goodness that Ulises is Mercedes’s cousin. Speaking of romance, I am usually not a fan of romance-y type books, but I absolutely loved the romance in ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE. Elias and Mercedes have a very subtle relationship throughout the book, which is a welcome relief from those in-your-face, unrealistic romances that are so prevalent in the YA culture. I commend Makiia for writing a refined, enjoyable romance between Elias and Mercedes. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their relationship grow as the story moved on, and I can’t wait to read more about their relationship in the next book.
The story mainly features Elias and his journey to uncover the truth about what happened all those years ago. At first, I must be honest and say that I wasn’t a fan of the story because no females had been introduced as main characters. I take all that back now. In today’s YA culture, most of the YA books feature a female as a lead character, with males as side characters. I hadn’t realized how much this was true until I looked at my bookshelf and saw that 95% of the YA books I own featured females. Don’t get me wrong, I love books with female main characters, but after I thought about it, I realized that Makiia Lucier’s book was different because of its incorporation of male lead characters (who weren’t trashy or weren’t chasing a girl). And I liked it. ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE was a welcome respite from a stereotypical YA fantasy, and while it does have male main characters, Mercedes’s character was built up over the course of the book to offer a great balance between the male/female ratio, and an opportunity for her to take a more prominent role in the next book. More female characters were introduced along the course of the book, including a girl called Reyna (who, if my guess is right, will prove to be a wonderful explorer and warrior). It was interesting to read the book from mainly Elias’s perspective, and because of this difference, I think Makiia’s book will stand out among other YA novels. It was clear that Elias and Ulises didn’t view Mercedes -or any of the other female characters- as unequal to them, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I liked it so much. Mercedes broke out of the norm for her culture and became a warrior, emissary, and a respected female figure. Reyna doesn’t want to sit at home in the castle like many of the other women, and part of the story is Reyna’s journey to be respected like Mercedes and follow her own path, even if it means changing what her society thinks about women mapmakers. Overall, there was such a great balance between the male/female characters and I highly enjoyed the difference in ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE as compared to other YA books.
ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE has an intriguing story line, as well as a perfect element of mystery. Just when you think that you know “who did it,” new clues pop up that change your whole way of thinking about the story. The only thing that confused me was just the introduction of all the characters at the beginning of the story. I was trying to keep track of who was who, and who was related to who, and who was murdered, and it was just a little confusing at time. But, as I read along in the story, and got to know more about the characters, I figured everything out and it became much less confusing. I would have loved to have seen one of those little “character trees” at the beginning/end of the book that say who is related to who, as well as list the minor characters and their relationships to the other characters. It was nothing a quick re-read of the beginning chapters won’t solve, though.
All the characters introduced were unique and had their own exclusive voices. There wasn’t a particular character that I didn’t enjoy reading about; I loved how well Makiia Lucier gave each character individuality and developed their personalities as the story advanced. This series is a duology, and the ending set up the next book very well, without creating a cliff hanger.
All in all, I absolutely loved ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE. The great characters, interesting plot, and the mystery that encompassed the story was brilliant. Makiia Lucier is a superb writer, with an ability to craft vivid images and evoke emotional responses. She created a breathtaking world, with intense characters and a mystery that will take you on a journey and have you wishing you could join St. John del Mar’s court. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book!
ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE receives 5 stars out of 5.
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