“Someday, history will remember them as legends.”
The Blood Stones is Tecken’s first foray into the epic fantasy genre, and she did not come to play. This is a deliciously dark blend of coming of age, political, and military fantasy, with some mystical rune magic, mystifying prophecy, and a good dose of sweet emotional turmoil sprinkled in. Welcome to the Legends of the Bruhai, welcome to Dry’llar.
Right from the gripping first chapter, Tecken sets the tone and establishes an immersive atmosphere that will keep you in a chokehold from start to finish. The story starts out feeling rather familiar and intimate, lulling you into a false sense of security before absolutely blowing the world open and ripping your heart out with each new devastating twist and turn.
We follow a plethora of intriguing characters, all of whom quickly find themselves entangled in all the intricate webs of dangerous political schemes. There were characters I wanted to strangle, others I wanted to give a good shake and smack over the head (looking at you, Gehrin), and yet others that I just wanted to give a long warm hug to (Nin and Xario, you are loved).
Themes of morality, propaganda, and gaslighting are explored with such care and nuance, and I was morbidly fascinated by how certain characters justified their reprehensible actions in their own minds. If you like to follow characters that leave you feeling conflicted and doubting not only their but also your own sense of morality, then you are in for a real treat here.
Now, the structure of this story is somewhat bold, in the sense that there is a three-year time jump between each of the three parts. I’ll have to admit that it felt a bit jarring at first and created some emotional distance for me, but in hindsight I now find myself appreciating and admiring how well Tecken pulled it off.
Because we get to follow these characters over a relatively large span of years during some of the most formative periods of their lives, the character development is simply astounding. Whether it’s satisfying character growth or devastating character corruption, all their arcs felt believable and painfully realistic.
“Sometimes it was easier to let your mind go quiet, to let the sound of voices, the cold air, and the ache of the bruises overpower the feelings within.”
The brutally honest and raw exploration of all the complex interpersonal relationships also had me glued to the page. Be it the touching sibling bonds, heartfelt friendships, gut wrenching parent/child relationships, or heartwarming found family dynamics; they all just tugged on my heartstrings in all the best (and most painful) ways. The only instance where the relationship building left me a bit wanting was in Gehrin’s POV, as I initially didn’t really feel the sense of brotherhood between the Bruhai. That said, I did get more invested as the core group started to be established in part 3, and some scenes at the end definitely hit me in the feels.
The world building is also simply breathtaking, not only in terms of its breadth, but even more so in terms of its astounding depth. There’s so much richness and nuance to the different cultures of this world, some of which we get to explore in all their glory and others that are just tantalisingly hinted at. I especially loved discovering the tribal culture of the Maleki people through Syndri’s eyes, which was such a refreshing contrast to all the other POVs wrapped up in the political drama in the kingdom of Katesh.
Though what I maybe loved most is that there’s just a certain air of intrigue permeating every aspect of the world and story. Not only were the Asian influences in the setting just so mystical and alluring, but all the hints of the old rune magic starting to stir again had me completely entranced. Superstitious beliefs, prophecy, and ancient lore play a big role in these characters’ lives, which gave the story an unpredictable quality that I absolutely adored.
Tecken just brings this intriguing world and compelling characters to life through her absolutely stunning prose, which has a lyrical edge to it that will reach right into your soul. And even though most of the dialogue felt a bit too stiff/formal for my personal liking, that little quibble was more than made up for by all the poignant lines that just cut like a knife and demanded to be reread and highlighted.
“They were trapped by each other, spinning in a strong current toward a terrible end.”
After reading Phased, I already knew that Tecken was a gifted storyteller, but truly outdid herself and stepped up her game in every way imaginable with The Blood Stones.
Even though this almost feels like an extended prologue to the series, considering the large amount of set-up and relatively little pay-off, I was still fully captivated by this tale from start to finish. And now that all the pieces have been put into place, I am desperate to see how things are going to escalate and converge.
In tone, vibe and themes, I think this story is perfect for fans of The Sword of Kaigen, The Long Price Quartet, The Last War and Obsidian: Awakening.
The Blood Stones is an unflinching tale of endurance, brotherhood, fate, love, humanity, sacrifice, grief, and revenge that will leave you hungering for more in the best way possible. Highly recommend!
*Disclaimer: I consider Tori a friend and was lucky enough to receive an eARC in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my review and rating of this book in any way, all opinions are my own.