This may contain some very mild spoilers from Book 1, but mostly remains without spoilers pertaining either to this one or preceding books.
In Stone of Darkness we return to Astrid and follow her as she tries to discover exactly what the Stone of Darkness is, and in process finds herself embroiled in the conflict with the Krystr- something she has never avoided, but never found herself heavily involved in. She has accepted her role as a Dragonslayer, but she still doesn’t know truly who she is, or her own heritage.
It was like a breath of fresh air to return to Astrid after almost 6 months, and I’m glad to say she’s still as fantastically riveting and interesting as ever. I struggled in places to remember people since I only remembered some of the main side characters, such as Lenore, Randim, Drageen, The Alchemist, Norah, DiStephan, Vinchi and Margreet. Other ones I didn’t remember I often did in time, but the first 40 or 50 pages or so were a bit confusing due to my incomprehension, but I managed to keep going and figure out who everyone was without going back to the first few books. But admittedly, I would advise anyone has read the others to perhaps read them again prior to this, just so it’s all fresh in your mind!
The story itself followed the similar track of the last two books of travelling between settlements and reading accounts of the events and conversations that take place. It means that Resa strikes a great balance between detailed, traditional fantasy and the faster more action-orientated modern fiction. It stops you from being other bored or overwhelmed, which once again makes this book a joy to read.
I was perhaps a little disappointed that the blacksmithing didn’t come into the story as much. I accept that the other side-stories perhaps are more important and indeed we could say her pre-occupation of being away from home precedes the necessity of not allowing for a great deal of blacksmithing- since she would need her own tools and smithy. Yet still I missed what was almost a learning experience when it came to the blacksmithing.
The world created by Resa is one of a complex heritage, and through Astrid we really get an idea of just how large this world is- very much beyond the village of Guell. Astrid feels the same way some people do when they travel for the first time to a foreign country- not being able to speak the native language and not knowing exactly where you might be brings home the fact that were you come from is small in comparison to the world. But it also highlights how foreigners aren’t aliens or all bad. This was part of book two, and perhaps book three merely enlarges the scale of this realisation.
Mystery is a theme in the book from the start, and as it continues new problems or questions arise- only some of which are answered and even then only partially. Originally a Blacksmith, Astrid’s problem lies in the fact that blacksmithing (I think) is a straightforward art. Doing one thing will lead to an (expected) consequence. But the chaos that grips Astrid’s world- both in a large scale and a small scale- makes it difficult for Astrid to know what to do. And we must also remember she is still relatively new to Dragonslaying too.
But Astrid is as commendable here as with most of her qualities. She’s not perfect (boy, is she not) but she feels a great deal of loyalty and responsibility to the world and the people around her. She comments in the first book (I think) that a blacksmith is responsible for everyone in a village because they make the tools used in other trades and the weapons used for defence. This duty transfers itself to the whole world and Astrid, in everything, is assured of this. She is very much a heroine in her ideas of the world and what is right, but she still remains damnably human and makes mistakes fairly often.
So, in conclusion, it was a great sequel to books two and one. I don’t think someone could just pick up this book and manage; you’d need to read the others. It wouldn’t be impossible, but I think it would overcome your inevitable confusion. But the merit of these books lies in the fact that they manage to give you a brilliant read in less than 300 pages and even manage to combat question on free-will and feminism which all appeal greatly to me as a reader. Intelligent, concise and entertaining. What more do you want from a book?
|Click to find out more about Resa!|
· Where did the idea for the Iron Maidens come from? I felt, personally, that they did make sense ideologically, but did you set out early on to do them or decide whilst writing?
The Iron Maidens showed up out of the blue. When I was writing The Stone of Darkness, my main character Astrid ended up in a real bind. Even though I write fantasy, I want to make the action and the world as realistic as possible. Astrid was in such a tight spot that I couldn’t see a believable way for her to get out of it by herself. Normally, I like Astrid to solve her own problems, but everyone needs help once in a while. So I started thinking about who might be travelling in the region where she was located that could help her, but I couldn’t think of any good solutions. All of a sudden, the Iron Maidens popped into my head. I immediately knew who they were and why they were there and how they came into being. That’s one of the things I really love about writing. Sometimes magic happens.
· How do you feel writing from the point of view of the Krystr? These hateful misogynists make my blood boil just reading them, and I wonder how you feel writing them. Angry? Sad? Accepting?
|Click for my review|
Alex, thank you so much for asking me this question. I’ve been hoping someone would for the longest time! I believe that villainous people in real life (for example, Hitler) typically thought (or think) they’re 100% in the right and that they’re doing the world a favor. I wanted to show how every man who’s a Krystr has a background and experiences that shaped who he is and what his opinions are. I wanted to get into their heads and understand their point of view. They feel justified. They believe they’re doing the right thing. They see themselves as heroes. And when I researched the Middle Ages, I learned that women were considered to have less value than some animals! That tells me that men must have felt that women were on the same level as animals, not human beings. So the Krystrs are based on how many real men thought and acted in medieval times. While I was writing, I started thinking about how we often learn our first opinions and beliefs from our families, and how some people never really change those first opinions and beliefs. I know there have been some ancient cultures (such as the ancient Egyptians and the Vikings) that treated women well, but as far as I can tell, most didn’t. I thought about how for thousands of years people have considered women as “less than” men and how these beliefs go back to times when women were considered to be on the same level as animals. All of a sudden, I thought about how difficult it is to change beliefs that have lasted in families for hundreds and thousands of years. It takes strength and courage and a strong sense of self to form your own opinions and to break hundreds or thousands of years of traditional thought. All of a sudden, I felt deeply sorry for my Krystr characters because they don’t have that kind of strength or courage or sense of self. They’re just doing what other men before them have done without question. I think the most tragic figure in the series is Gershon because he comes so close to doing the right thing only to cave into peer pressure by Krystrs who are simply manipulating him for their own purpose. He almost does the right thing, but he fails. I think he’s keenly aware of what he’s done, and it will haunt him forever. He never forgives himself. Ironically, writing the Krystr characters has taught me to have compassion for men who act like them in our world. I feel sorry for them in the same way I feel sorry for Gershon and the Krystrs. So writing these characters actually changed part of who I am.
· Can I ask about the dragons? As you said in the first interview of the tour (which everyone can see here) you’ve playing it close to the chest so far. I was wondering more about where they came from? They seem omniscient and in many ways omnipotent. Are they meant to be so superior?
About all I can say without ruining Book 4 is that there are serious reasons for the dragons to be the way they are. Once you learn that reason, I think everything will fall into place and make sense. I know I’m not really answering your question, but I can’t figure out how to talk about them without ruining the last book in the series. I will say that there are a lot of answers in Book 4. And some surprises that I didn’t see coming until they happened!
|Click for my review|
· Less to do with the story, but…
When you write, do you set out to right books at the length you do? I assume you’d write what needs to be written and not worry about the numbers, but I’ve always been amazed at how you do so much in such a short book- and it’s especially odd for me since I’m so used to long fantasy novels. I just wonder about your writing process and whether you feel it has an impact on the book length?
I think my writing reflects my personal impatience with reading. I love mysteries and thrillers. My favorite modern-day author is Harlan Coben, who makes me want to turn every page. When a new Harlan Coben book comes out, I set aside a weekend to do nothing but read, because I know I HAVE to read his book without interruption (except for sleeping) until I finish it. I like books that move at a good clip. I get bored easily. I need a book to capture my attention and keep it. I feel the same way when I’m writing. The last thing I want to do is bore anyone who reads my work – and I can’t stand to be bored while I’m writing it! When it comes to my process, I begin by daydreaming about what the book might be like. Then I nail down some specific things: what I want to do thematically, the beginning, a few important things in the middle, and the end. I also need to understand the overall journey of the main character and sometimes other characters – what they learn, how they grow and change because of what happens in the book. But when I sit down to write each chapter, I feel like I’m in a movie and I’m just frantically writing down everything I see that’s happening all around me. So I don’t really aim for a specific number of overall pages in the book. I just want to make it long enough to feel like a novel and short enough so hopefully no one gets bored!
Some extra little links...as a reward for having read everything above!!!: