Review by Jon Guenther
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765337924
Date: 05 January 2016
List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
I must admit that despite my unfamiliarity with this form of fantasy literature, I found Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn different in a variety of interesting ways. It earned its strongest allure with me by its sheer originality.
The story involves a boy named Joss, a youngster I inferred from the text to be in his teen years. His entire culture is embroiled into unwanted conflict when their paradise isle is attacked by The Gaels, who I could best liken to a barbarous horde with a colorful warrior history. In fact, the way the characters are drawn in The Gaels reminded me in some ways of the Klingon Empire, a somewhat bemusing comparison but no less true.
Joss is part of a group known as the Túatha Dé Danann, a people led by a royal oligarchy of sorts, and is the son of royalty. Ultimately, his family is slain and he must come into adulthood on his own with very little to guide him or his as yet to be discovered powers.
In a real twist of storytelling, it also turns out this historical world built much by the author's apparently studied expertise in Celtic lore, weaves magic into the mix that involves everything from ancient protectors to powers passed from one generation to the next through bloodlines.
There was no question by fifty pages into the text I was reading a war novel of a sorts coupled with what felt much like a Greek tragedy. There are echoes in this book of the writings of Homer. Ms. Llywelyn's command of language is exquisite and, thus, the novel is a shining example of some of the exquisite storytelling of the past. Yet, she manages to keep it interesting.
Had someone told me this and asked me if I wanted to read the book, I would most likely have given it a pass. I'm glad for the opportunity to have read it. I think this story works because it explores the mythical archetypes in story to which we respond time and again in the same fashion. Ultimately, I applaud Only the Stones Survive based on the quality of the prose, alone. It won't be for every fan of epic fantasies that I could most closely compare to the works of authors like Raymond Feist, but I enjoyed it all the same.
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