Here is the second review for today, as it is my stop on the Escapists Tours blog tour for Whispers of Stone by Allegra Pescatore, the second book in the Last Gift Series. You can find my review for book one here, and I hope that you will check out the other blogs involved with this tour. There is also a chance to win a copy for yourself at the end of this post.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
A God is Dead. A Queen is Missing. Secrets are Unraveling.
On trial for the murder of the King, Elenor and Gabriel must become allies if they want to survive. His magic is spiraling out of control, awakening a mystery hidden in the very walls of the palace. She has one month to pass her Water Rite and find a way out of the marriage her parents set up. But things are about to get much more complicated.
Between sadistic family members intent on taking Elenor’s throne, Tirit Mindel breathing down Gabriel’s neck, and a Golden Dragon appearing in the sky above the Mondaer Desert with an ominous warning, more than the Kingdom of Lirin is at stake.
If that weren’t bad enough, time is ticking down for Fedrik and Fay as well. With the desert turning against them and Daemon as a questionable new ally, figuring out how to control Fedrik’s Gift has become a matter of life and death.
Picking up in the fallout of Where Shadows Lie, Whispers of Stone is the long-awaited and non-stop second installment of The Last Gift. Dive back into the world of Dracona and hold onto your hats. Things are about to get… salty.
Author’s Note: While the Last Gift may be read as a stand-alone series, it is meant to be read alongside the other books of Project Ao. The Suggested Reading Order is:
Where Shadows Lie
NACL: Eye of the Storm
Whispers of Stone
These Gossamer Strings
NACL: Storm Surge (Forthcoming)
After reading and loving the first book there was no way I couldn’t pick up Whispers of Stone, and I’m glad I got to do so soon after reading book one. Now, it should be noted that this is the first half of a two-part story that culminates in the third book – These Gossamer Strings, which I will be picking up as soon as possible. This series is also part of a collection called Project Ao, which features multiple projects in a shared universe, and according to the authors note this is the first book where knowledge of those other worlds will come into play and Pescatore encourages you to read NACL: Eye of the Storm first, although each series is done so that it might be read alone. Now, I have not read this other book yet, and it did not impede my enjoyment or understanding at all, although I look forward to revisiting Whispers of Stone once I have, to see the connections in play – but you can certainly enjoy this book (as long as you have read book one of course!) without that knowledge.
I did not connect instantly with the prologue for Where Shadows Lie, but this one had me hooked instantly – from the fact that there was a mock dragon (honestly, just mention dragon and I’m there), to the emotions on both sides of the events, to the mystery of what was happening. This was a less action-packed opening, but that did not lessen its impact in the slightest. There was one bit of language towards the end that didn’t feel as though it fit in with the rest and gave me pause for a moment, but other than that a great introduction to Whisper of Stone.
It is the characters who continue to really make this series come alive, and it was a joy to return to this world because of that, and because I couldn’t wait to see how Pescatore would continue to bring them to life. This book has picked up right after the previous book, which means that we get to see the immediate impact of those events of the characters, and just as the author did an excellent job of capturing a world in flux in book one (and continues to in this one), she brings to life a cast of characters caught in the maelstrom of events – some they can control, others they can’t, in a way that is not only compelling to read but feels completely organic. These are character arcs that ripple and flow with the events, rather than maintaining a steady path, and it was seeing the reactions and interactions, the shifting relationships, the development of the flaws and likes and dislikes that we got to see previously, in this flux that makes this book so compelling.
Elenor remains a favourite, and in many ways, she is the one that I feel we see this development most strongly in, because the girl that I sometimes wanted to shake and shout at in the first book is forced to mature at pace in light of the events that happened, and continue to happen, She is forced to step up into a role of authority, to deal with the political intrigue and threats that are all around her, along with her personal journey, and it was fantastic to see that develop on the page, and to see the very real impact of events, and I can’t wait to see where her arc will take her. Another character that stole the limelight for me in this one was Gabriel, who was present in the first book, but it felt as though we really got to dive into who he was in this one, and in a world where there is so much drama and conflict, he was such a sweet character and I really liked him. And again it is great to see the variety that Pescatore is able to bring to her cast, and how unique they all feel, with the same care being taken to develop the side characters alongside the main POV characters. No one is left behind or forgotten about, and whether they are training, or caught up in the intrigue, we see them all responding to these events as they unfold in their own ways.
‘Daemon shifted uncomfortably once more. It would be so very easy to lie. The thought of not using a veritable mountain of stored magic for his own ends was downright painful, and he could not promise that he would not for the sake of a mere handful of red-eyed people who would all be dead in less than a century.’
Daemon was the character that I found most intriguing in book one, and that mysterious edge was certainly still evident in this book, but it did feel as though we were starting to peel away some of the layers and see who he really was, and what motivated him. There were also so many moments when I wanted to shake him or give him a slap, so maybe that means he is properly elevated to favourite character status – he’s certainly one that I can’t wait to see what he does in the next book, especially as it seems like he is at the focus of so many people and beings, and not all that popular with it and I can’t wait to see where Pescatore will take him.
The worldbuilding also continues to shine, and in Whispers of Stone as with the characters we get to the see the world developing and expanding. There is a lot more emphasis it felt on the political intrigue and drama in this one, and we get to see the interactions between the different kingdoms and the scheming behind those interactions, which expanded the world while driving forward the plot, and again you can absolutely feel the author’s love for this world and the depth of detail and thought that she has put into it. And beyond this political dance, with assassins and plots and general intrigue, we still have the wonderful magic system and the drama of the gods being directly involved in the world – although I would say that compared to the political side it did feel like that side was still ramping up a little, which makes sense as this is part one of two.
That is also evident in how this one ends as it feels a tad abrupt, although I will say that it did an excellent job of making me want to immediately pick up the next book and find out what is going to happen next. There was a level of menace and urgency, that I think makes up for any abruptness and leaves you with the burning need to continue.
Whispers of Stone is a fantastic sequel to Where Shadows Lie and has certainly not rested on its laurels after having such a strong first book. Pescatore continues to show her amazing talent for creating rich, fleshed out characters who are as multi-layered and complicated as the story and world she has build around them, and the balance of epic events and character moments remains. Again I am left wanting to read more from Pescatore, and I would not hesitate to recommend this series to anyone who loves character-driven epic fantasy, especially with a healthy dollop of political intrigue on top, and I would encourage anyone to give this series a go!
Allegra grew up in a small village in northern Tuscany as the daughter of two artists. She was raised on the works of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Phillip Pullman, Frank Herbert, and many others, all read aloud to her while she drew and played make-believe. She began to write at the age of eight and hasn’t stopped since.
After many moves and dozens of countries visited, she now lives in a cozy cottage in Western PA. She is accompanied in her current adventures by husband Job, co-conspirator and long-time writing partner Tobias, and a small army of furry and scaly pets. When not writing or daydreaming, Allegra rules her kitchen with an iron first and feeds everyone who walks through her door. She also gardens, dabbles in various art forms, and spins stories for her tabletop gaming group.
As a disabled woman and staunch LGBTQ ally, Allegra hopes to write engaging, diverse, and representative Fantasy and Science Fiction, where people who do not often see themselves center stage get the chance to shine.
Her debut book, Where Shadows Lie, was an SPFBO Semi-Finalist and is a CIBA award finalist. It is the first book of The Last Gift series, and the first title of Project Ao, by Ao Collective Publishing. Other titles in Project Ao include NACL: Eye of the Storm (2021 SPFBO Semi-Finalist) and A Bond of Thread.
Prize: A Signed Paperback Copy of Whispers of Stone! (US Only)
Starts: July 7, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: July 13, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
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If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.