Book Review: Isle of Blood and Stone

Title: Isle of Blood and Stone
Author: Makiia Lucier
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 380
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Copy: ARC provided by publisher
Availability: Available Now

Summary: Ulises asked, “How can I look at these maps, see this riddle, and do nothing? They are my brothers.”

Elias reached across the table and flicked aside two shells with a fingertip. The map curled into itself. “It’s bound to be a goose chase. You know that?”

“Or a treasure hunt,” Ulises countered, “and you’ve always been good at those.”

Nineteen-year-old Elias is a royal explorer, a skilled mapmaker, and the new king of del Mar’s oldest friend. Soon he will embark on the adventure of a lifetime, an expedition past the Strait of Cain and into uncharted waters. Nothing stands in his way…until a long-ago tragedy creeps back into the light, threatening all he holds dear.

The people of St. John del Mar have never recovered from the loss of their boy princes, kidnapped eighteen years ago, both presumed dead. But when two maps surface, each bearing the same hidden riddle, troubling questions arise. What really happened to the young heirs? And why do the maps appear to be drawn by Lord Antoni, Elias’s father, who vanished on that same fateful day? With the king’s beautiful cousin by his side—whether he wants her there or not—Elias will race to solve the riddle of the princes. He will have to use his wits and guard his back. Because some truths are better left buried…and an unknown enemy stalks his every turn.

Review: If you are in need of a fun, escapist fantasy that is pure mystery filled with political intrigue and characters that you can love, then this is the book for you; which, let’s get real, because our real world political intrigue changes by the minute, to read a story where the mystery is the search for a missing father and princes turns that turns into your regular “who done it” mystery is the balm to our real world troubles. Isle of Blood and Stone is a perfect spring read to sit under a tree, enjoying the spring air, and allow yourself to get lost in world of St. John Del Mar that Makiia Lucier has wonderfully created.

Elias is the reluctant hero who is tasked with solving the mystery of two maps that appear to be made by his father, who died years before. Because his father disappeared when he was a baby, Elias has no memory of his father aside from what family members and friends have told him, and has created a wonderful life. His mother eventually remarried, he has a good relationship with his step-father, and even has three younger siblings. It makes sense that Elias is hesitant to take on this challenge because depending what he finds it could completely change his world. What he discovers changes everything for him, but he realizes that what he believed his whole life is basically wrong. I liked the way Lucier wrote Elias up to this point, but after he learns of the political intrigue, to me, I felt is when his character really began to stand out. He seemed to have this almost obsessive need to find the truth, no matter the risks he took or the consequences of what would happen when the truth was revealed. Elias was described as a risk taker from family and friends throughout the book, but his reasons for taking these risks showed his integrity and I really liked that about him.

Elias wasn’t the only character I liked, however. Mercedes, who is a spy/diplomat and his best friend/love interest, was such a wonderfully written character. This novel was as much hers as it was Elias as she balanced him out. Mercedes was very thoughtful and calculated in her actions, but also was the one person who could truly talk sense into Elias. She was a force in her own right as she had power within the court and much of the novel is from her point of view, thus giving Mercedes agency and becoming more than “Elias love interest.” While she doesn’t have a personal stake in the mystery, because it effects those close to her, she does all she can to help Elias on his search. She even plays a pivotal role in helping the truth come out and even believes in Elias when no one else does. She is definitely a “ride or die” friend and I’m glad that she was written in such a balanced and true manner.

I do have to give props to Lucier to making this world so believable. It feels like it could be set in the swashbuckling era of pirates who sail the seas and have all sorts of adventures, but there is an element of the fantastical as sea serpents are real monsters and ghosts interact with humans. The small details, such as having a dentist/barber/surgeon who uses leeches to draw blood, really made the world come alive. The way Lucier also describes the various maps I secretly wished my copy had one as I could practically imagine the beauty of the maps that the Navigators & Mapmakers in Del Mar made. I was completely drawn into the world that Lucier created that it stuck with me for days after I finished the book. In fact, I can’t wait for Book 2 to return and see what Elias and Mercedes do next.