Pros: Beautiful storytelling
Cons: A hugely confusing number of names and titles
Rating: 4 out of 5
Demnor is the heir to the throne of Branion. Someday, when his mother dies, he will take over and become the Aristok, also the Vessel of the Living Flame, the Avatar of Branion’s religion. Some Vessels prove too weak to control the Flame–Demnor must have great strength of willpower in order to cope with its burden. It doesn’t help that his mother, Melesandra the third, seems to hate him and favors Quindara, his younger sister. Now it’s time for Demnor to marry and produce an heir–but he’s already in love with his Companion, the handsome and golden-haired Kelahnus. As for Kelahnus, while his loyalty is supposed to be entirely to the Companions Guild, he returns Demnor’s love and will do everything he can to keep Demnor safe and sane.
In the middle of all of this, the Heathland–always at odds with Branion–works on reigniting the war between the two lands, with Demnor, Kelahnus, and Demnor’s Consort-to-be caught in the middle. Intense politicking nearly tears Branion apart while treachery and treason poison it from within. Demnor had better be at the top of his game or he’s unlikely to survive the ordeal.
The Stone Prince was written by Fiona Patton, an author whose work I really enjoy. I’ve read some of her later books (the Warriors of Estavia series), and I’m now going back to check out her Novels of the Branion Realm. I enjoyed this installment quite a lot.
Demnor is a great character. He has room for strength, worry, friendship, and love, and his relationships with others are never simple. As the story goes on it becomes easier to see why those around him have such disparate views of his abilities. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting him and his allies to win the day. There’s a complex web of relationships that change over time in fascinating ways. The only problem I had with characterization in general was the vast number of characters and titles, particularly when several characters accrued additional or new titles during the course of the story. I got totally lost for a while, but then I don’t have the best memory in the world. Luckily that was the only problem I had with the book.
The world is interesting–I like that the gods have actual physical presence and power, but not to such an extent that they overwhelm everything else. The plot involves plenty of action, tension, dramatic relationships, and more.
My favorite part of things, though? The treatment of gender. Same-sex relationships exist as totally normal, with nary a comment made to make them seem at all odd. Women also keep positions of power just as men do–again, it’s treated as entirely normal. Patton doesn’t need to extemporize on the subject; she lets it speak for itself. We need more books like that.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!