Stonefather: A pleasant coming-of-age story

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsOrson Scott Card Mither Mages StonefatherStonefather by Orson Scott Card

Runnel isn’t appreciated by his family or his little village. His father abuses him, his siblings taunt him, and even his mother doesn’t seem overly fond. So one day he walks to the edge of his village and just keeps going. He’s never been outside of his village before, so everything is new. Eventually he comes to a city whose walls and bridges are crumbling. He’s told that this is the city of the water mages, the magicians who cast out the stone mages that built the beautiful city. After the mage war, the victorious water mages will only allow one stone mage in the town. He lives in a grand house and is treated with respect, but he is spied upon and mistrusted because if he ever brings his colleagues back into the city, the water mages fear that they’ll lose their ruling positions.

After meeting a friendly girl at the city’s well, Runnel follows her home and finds employment in the home of the stone mage. There he learns about the history and politics of this strange city, and he learns a lot about himself, too. It seems that Runnel may have an affinity for stone.

Stonefather is a novella that introduces Orson Scott Card’s MITHER MAGES series, which is aimed at young adults. As I’ve come to expect from Card, this story is beautifully written and contains deep and likable characters, a well-developed world with interesting magic, and an intriguing setting. This is a simpler, lighter and more relaxed read, though, than Card’s ENDER series, which was full of drama, tension and, best of all, lots of ideas. Stonefather doesn’t reach that level — it’s mostly a pleasant coming-of-age story — but it did occur to me that the mage war may be an allegory for the Christian and Muslim conflict in Jerusalem. I have no idea if this is Orson Scott Card’s intention, though.

As far as YA fiction goes, this is a good choice for a reader looking for a lovely low-stress read. In many ways it’s similar to the YA fantasy of Ursula K. Le Guin and Shannon Hale. I think Stonefather bodes well for the MITHER MAGES series and I will likely give the first novel, The Lost Gate, a try.

Stonefather has been published by Subterranean Press. The cover art, by Tom Kidd (one of my favorites) is stunning. I read the book in audio format (published by Blackstone Audio). It’s narrated by Janice Card, Orson Scott Card’s daughter. She does a terrific job with Stonefather. The gorgeous cover art is viewable when you download the audio version with an Audible app.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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