Thank you to Erewhon Books for sending me an advance copy of The Stone Road for review!
The day Jean March was born, smoke rose from the hills west of town; the Furnace was lit, and it drew people in, never to return. Each birthday results in more suffering in the village of Casement Rise. The dead talk, lightning strikes and monsters appear from nowhere.
Through it all, Jean’s only friends are her Nan, a dead boy and a talking bird. Nan begins her training in earnest when a figure connected to the family’s secrets appears on Jean’s twelfth birthday. Jean must learn about the monsters and magic in her world and embrace her legacy before an ancient evil rises again.
The Stone Road is unlike anything I’ve read before. The publisher’s official description compares the language and imagery to The Last Unicorn and A Wizard of Earthsea, but Trent Jamieson’s work possesses something all its own. It’s a mystical coming-of-age story full of language you must piece together like a puzzle. I was often unsure of what was happening, but in the best way possible.
The setting is fascinatingly weird. It’s maybe a post-apocalyptic version of our world, but maybe not. There are what sound like vampires living in the north and monsters that build statues in the woods. Overall, tons of small details don’t seem to affect the plot much; instead, they’re present as tiny bits of world-building.
The world reminded me a little of Garth Nix‘s Abhorsen series: sad and full of death, yet focused on family and community. Mixed with fairy tale qualities reminiscent of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, The Stone Road possesses fantastic vibes.
I also loved the characters Jamieson created. From the very beginning, Jean is a force. Recounting her birth story, she says, “I was born mad … Born with teeth, and I bit Dr. Millison’s hand as he cut my cord, tasted blood before milk. Suckled hard and gave pain before I let go of any tears.”
While raised around tragedy and death, she’s practical and pragmatic. Even in the book portions where she’s a child, she doesn’t lament the hardships in her life. She knows she and her family aren’t ordinary and how vital Nan’s work is.
I loved Nan, too; Jean’s grandmother is gruff and no-nonsense but still clearly loves Jean with all her heart. She doesn’t sugarcoat the truths of the world. The two of them make a great team against the evil surrounding them.
I recommend reading this book in just a few sittings as there aren’t any traditional chapter breaks. Instead, The Stone Road is broken into five larger parts spanning Jean’s childhood and twenties. Readers won’t want to break up this journey, so set aside enough time to enjoy it all the way through.
The Stone Road comes out on July 19 and is available for preorder from your local independent bookstore and Bookshop.org.
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