Earlier this year, a group of fantasy writers got together and had a contest collectively called Crossing the Streams. The way it worked was that each author had some sort of contest on his or her website to give away one or more books. There were about seventeen authors if I counted correctly. You can find a list of them at the above link. If you keep up with this blog, you’ll see quite a few familiar names.
The rules for each contest were different, and there was one uber-contest in which the winner got all of the prizes from all of the contests. While I didn’t win the uber-contest, I did win Keith Baker’s. First I would like to thank all of the authors who participated in Crossing the Streams for their generosity in putting this thing together. I would especially like to thank Keith Baker for sending me an inscribed copy of The Queen of Stone. Additionally, I would like to apologize to him for taking so long to read and review the book.
I wasn’t familiar with Mr. Baker’s work, and since his prize was my choice of one from a group of novels, I asked him to suggest the best one to start with. The Queen of Stone was his response. I have to say it was a good choice. This was a compelling, fast-paced read.
The story is set in the world of Eberron. The viewpoint character is Thorn, who is one of the Dark Lanterns of the kingdom of Breland. No, not that type of lantern. While she does have a ring that is central to the plot, it’s not a power ring and there’s no oath. Rather, the Dark Lanterns are espionage agents.
Thorn has two missions. One involves protecting the Brelish ambassador at a conclave called by the Daughters of Sora Kell. They want diplomatic recognition for the kingdom they’ve established. The citizens of this kingdom are viewed with fear by humans and human-like races such as the elves. They’re what we would consider to be monsters: harpies, minotaurs, ogres. And, oh yeah, gorgons.
Which brings us to the second of Thorn’s missions. There’s a legendary hero who was turned to stone by the queen of the gorgons two hundred years ago. Gorgons having extremely long lifespans, she’ll be at the conclave. Thorn is to find the statute of this hero, convince the gorgon queen to restore him to life, and smuggle him back to Breland. And if the gorgon queen gets killed at some point in the process, well, that’s okay, too, so long as Breland can’t be blamed for it.
Yeah, right. No problem. Piece of cake.
The novel hits the ground running, and Baker doesn’t slow down much except when he wants to tighten the screws and up the suspense. The fight scenes, both individual and large scale, are extremely well executed. Baker comes up with some clever tricks for Thorn to accomplish her missions.
Thorn is an intriguing, multi-faceted character. Some very interesting things happen near the end (you don’t think I’m actually going to tell you what they are, do you?) which make me eager to read more of Thorn’s adventures.
While this might sound like a cross between a traditional fantasy novel and James Bond, Thorn is cut from a very different cloth than 007. For one thing, Thorn isn’t a master agent like Bond. She’s still learning, although she’s no neophyte, either. And she’s accompanied by Steel, a sentient dagger that can communicate with her and seems to think it outranks her at times.
This was a fun, entertaining adventure. Thorn is a multifaceted character, and I’d like to see more of her. I’ll be looking for more in this series.