*I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Title: Isle of Blood and Stone
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
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: I was super excited when I first heard about this book! It sounded like an awesome fantasy and the synopsis hooked me. I really love that the author drew inspiration from her own island heritage and put a fantasy spin on it, building her world around island culture. There is definitely a rich history and mythology in this story, and I hope to see more of it in the sequel. I also want to see more beyond the island, but the ending did leave me wanting to know what happens next.
The plot surrounds these mysterious maps that appear and threaten to unravel the past. They bring into question everything Ulises and Elias know about what really happened eighteen years ago to two young princes and a mapmaker. One of these people is Elias’s father, Lord Antoni, whom he never knew. The other two who went missing were the two young princes, one meant to be crowned King. Their brother Ulises, who has recently taken the throne, has Elias study the maps in order to see if there is any link to that fateful day. The story turns into a sort-of quest to see where any clues might lead them.
There was a lot of mystery, suspense, and betrayal throughout the story. I had some issues with the pacing for the first bit of the book, but there was definitely action and twists in the second half. What kept me reading was wanting to know where the story was going to end up and what the maps would reveal. I had my theories! There was also a bit of a supernatural/magic element to this story as well, and definitely some creepy moments. I may have gotten a few goosebumps from certain ghostly scenes.
My favourite character was definitely Mercedes (Ulises cousin) because she is so underestimated by everyone around her. She’s sharp and never lets anyone see beyond the tough skin she uses to deflect those who seek to oppress her for her gender and her mixed culture (slight warning to those sensitive to stereotypes and discrimination). Mercedes is also stubborn as hell and I love it! She always gets her way and never takes ‘no’ for an answer—especially from men. Can you say fierce female character?
Overall, this was a good read, but there were some elements that didn’t work for me. I think it definitely needed some more action, especially in the beginning to kind of drive the story forward more. Also, I wish we got to see more worldbuilding because every good fantasy needs to have a strong setting and I wanted more description of the island. But I am looking forward to seeing where the second book goes!