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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Reviews: Stonecast (Spellmason Chronicles #2) by Anton Strout

Stonecast (The Spellmason Chronicles #2)
by Anton Strout
The adventures of a girl and her gargoyle continue in the second installment of this “thrilling, funny and eerie” fantasy series. —Romantic Times on Alchemystic

No Stone Unturned...

Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business…until she discovered her true legacy—a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.

With Stanis gone, Lexi’s efforts to master Spellmasonry—even with the help of her dedicated friends—are faltering. Hidden forces both watch her and threaten her, and she finds herself suddenly under the mysterious wing of a secret religious society determined to keep magic hidden from the world.

But the question of Stanis’s fate haunts her—and as the storm around her grows, so does the fear that she won’t be able to save him in her turn.

Alchemystic, the first in Strout's Spellmason Chronicles, was a good urban fantasy romp, though it didn't exactly astound me. Good action, but a couple lackluster characters, specifically the protagonist, Lexi Belarus, who came surprisingly unlikable due to her self-entitled demeanor. In Stonecast, Lexi has matured, which thankfully raises the stakes in the novel as she works to become not only a better spellmason, but a better person.

Stanis, the protective gargoyle with a human soul squirreled away in all that carved stone, has turned himself over to his father, Ketejan, in order to protect Lexi. This leaves her at the start of Stonecast floundering in her efforts to hone her skills as a spellmason. Thus far, her little pet brick, Bricksley, is the only real acheivement she has to brag about. Every other creature she tries to manifest seems to crumble or run amok. Oddly enough, her friends, Rory and Marshall, seem to be adapted better to the revelations that magic is a real thing and they need to step up their game if they want to survive.

The alternating chapters between Lexi and Stanis prove interesting, not only in how the plot proceeds while they are separated from each other, but when a roguish alchemist arrives in the city to serve as a bit of a double-agent, hired by Stanis' father, Ketejan, to control Stanis and learn the secrets of becoming a gargoyle as well, and also serving as an assistant to the secret religious council doing its best to keep the worlds of magic under wraps. The added intrigue does a lot to keep things moving and the new characters provide plenty of conflict, upsetting the balance set in the previous novel.

There are a still a couple key moments when the dialogue feels a bit wooden and akin to a soap opera, but overall the world created here feels much richer, much more organic, and Lexi's progression goes a long way in making her a compelling character. New York City also gets a little more love in this book over the first, becoming much more a character in itself as things move towards the penultimate showdown. And while there is the obligatory nod towards the third novel in the series, the book does work as a stand-alone with the key plot having a beginning, middle, and end.

I wasn't terribly excited to dive into the Spellmason Chronicles again before I picked up Stonecast, but having read it I am now quite looking forward to seeing how this trilogy closes next year.

review: Alchemystic (Spellmason Chronicles #1)

4 Sheep

Gef Fox
Wag the Fox: Den For Dark Fiction

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