Isle of Blood and Stone (ARC) by Makiia Lucier

In Isle of Blood and Stone, Makiia Lucier explores the repercussions of a story eighteen years in the making, that began when two princes vanished. Now, eighteen years later, a riddle hidden on a recently uncovered mysterious map could chart a course towards the truth and the missing royals. Set to be released in North America on April 10, 2018, this historical fantasy that’s perfect for fans of Rachel Hartman and Tamora Pierce!

(I would like to thank Raincoast Books for providing me with an Advance Reader’s Copy of Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier in exchange for an honest review). 

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. 

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Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier is a sweeping fantasy full of intrigue and schemes, romance and friendship, and fearless explorers searching for the truth. Combining rich descriptions with a compelling mystery, Lucier creates a vibrant world populated by appealing characters, adventure subtle magical elements, a hint of romance, and a dose of political intrigue (Publishers Weekly).

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.” – Makiia Lucier, Isle of Blood and Stone

In Isle of Blood and Stone, Lucier paints a vivid world where sea serpents abound, royal mapmakers spend their lives at sea, and everyone has a secret to keep. Readers will find the subtle hints of magic, like sea serpents and malevolent spirits, littered throughout the story intriguing, reminding them that while the world may feel familiar to a historical setting in our own world, the island and archipelago of islands that Elias, Ulises, and Mercedes inhabit is not the same as our world, and will never be. Furthermore, the original setting of the tale, which highlights a powerful seafaring nation nestled in an archipelago of islands that exist in tenuous harmony, is rich and well described. The world is not simply a setting either – it is an active part of the story, shaping the adventures of the protagonists throughout Isle of Blood and Stone. 

Furthermore, I absolutely loved the protagonists in this novel – Elias, Ulises, Mercedes, and even young Reyna, made for an enjoyable reading experience. They were all strong, selfless and, compassionate characters who will really draw the reader into the story. Elias is clever, has a curious mind, and the soul of an adventurer, a combination which led him to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a cartographer. While this is a tad bit of an unusual role when it comes to Young Adult Fantasy characters, Lucier really made Elias’ role as a cartographer work, especially in relation to the treasure maps and riddles Reyna discovers. Ulises is a typical Young Adult Fantasy King in that he initially comes across as quite spoiled and ignorant, but in his plight to uncover the truth behind the mystery of his brothers’ disappearances eighteen years ago, he grows a lot as an individual, eventually displaying his grit and character to make some tough decisions. Mercedes is a strong and smart heroine, unwilling to compromise her own goals and values simply for the men in her life. She also withstands constant abuse and discrimination as a result of her mixed race, but she does not allow it to break her spirit, highlighting her strength.

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There is also touch of romance that brews between Mercedes and Elias in that perfect slow burn that will make readers keep turning the pages, just hoping for more. Neither is willing to compromise their dreams and goals for the other, but still they cannot resist the irresistible draw to the other that they feel, making for a read ripe with romantic tension.

Finally, Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier is first a foremost a mystery, lined with adventure and romance. The mystery of the missing princes, the curious maps, and what happened on that day eighteen years ago is central to the plot, driving the actions of the protagonists (and the villains). And while I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of the story, I felt that it perhaps left something to be desired in terms of the build up towards the reveal. When all the secrets were revealed, I just felt kind of confused, and perhaps a bit cheated. Lucier had dropped just enough breadcrumbs to make Elias’ conclusions reasonable, but not nearly enough to make it seem realistic that he could have solved the mystery with the information he had. The mystery definitely could have been more fleshed out, but as it stands, there was enough information for the reader to still enjoy the journey, and leave them not too confused at the reveal.

Overall, Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier was an enjoyable story as a result of the rich and well-developed setting, highlighting Lucier’s world-building skills, and because of the enjoyable cast of characters. However, the story was a bit slow for my liking, and the mystery would have benefited from more attention to ensure that the reader was able to understand how Elias solved the riddle of the maps to uncover what exactly happened eighteen years ago (4/5).

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