Makiia Lucier weaves a new world and fantastical mystery together in ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE!
Seventeen years ago, two crown princes of del Mar and the esteemed royal navigator Lord Antoni were lost to the world, taken captive by the soldiers of Mondrago only to die at sea, the rest of their party killed by poison. Elias grew up in Lord Antoni’s footsteps, regaling in tales of his father’s heroics and sailing the seas as a mapmaker for his best friend, the young King Ulises. The kingdom of del Mar holds its grudge and mourns their loss still, but everything changes for Elias and Ulises when two mysterious maps are discovered. The maps, though recent, appear to have been created by Lord Antoni. And the riddle within hints that Ulises’s older brothers are still alive, hidden somewhere in del Mar.
With their worlds turned upside down by the dramatic discovery, Elias, Ulises, and Ulises’s half-del Marian, half-Mondragon cousin Mercedes try to follow the maps’ riddle and careful inconsistencies to find out if the princes and Elias’s father are still out there somewhere.
Makiia Lucier’s kingdom of del Mar is a rich, layered setting that evokes a golden age of sailing and discovery. It vibes off the eighteenth century with lush countryside and a bustling city, complete with the most dubious medical practice ever, then adds in its own fantasy elements for a refreshing twist. The world certainly lends itself to the storytelling and the characters explore the ins and outs.
However, what stuck with me were the character relationships, particularly the one between Elias, Ulises, and Mercedes. They’re some of the more realistic I’ve seen, in the sense that you know these characters would die for each other, but in because they shout it from the rooftops on wax poetic about it. You see it in their casual banter, their defense of one another, and their subtle interactions. I also really loved Reyna, the 9-year-old granddaughter of the royal navigator who was a bit feisty and more clever than her age suggests.
The plot revolves around the solving the mystery of the missing princes. It’s fun once it really kicks into gear, but it does take a bit thanks to introductions and worldbuilding necessities. Overall, the story could have used a little more action to keep the blood pumping, but I was still impressed with the clever puzzle the story puts together and the action scenes that were there proved to be an adventurous good time. Readers will likely be able to suss out some parts of the mystery, particularly the character behind it all, but the full picture didn’t develop until Lucier was ready for the big reveal– and it was much bigger than I expected!
This novel is the first in a series, so I was a bit surprised by how complete and final the ending felt. In some ways, this works. It felt good, even comforting, to have a complete perspective and there wasn’t a forced cliffhanger that felt like a gimmick. But there also weren’t any breadcrumbs specifically urging readers on to the next part of the journey. We know were Elias is going and sure, it could be dangerous and fascinating (I’m sure it will be,) but it’s not really hyped up as if there’s a follow-up on the horizon.
If you like light fantasy with mystery and adventure elements, this is a solid book to find yourself wrapped up in, with great characters and twists in which to relish!
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS
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.