The Stone of the Stars: I’d have treasured it at 13

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsreview Alison Baird Dragon Throne 1: The Stone of the StarsThe Stone of the Stars by Alison Baird

The Stone of the Stars is a fun, if imperfect, high fantasy with gently feminist overtones, a coming-of-age theme, and a slight hint of romance.

The beginning is… well, inauspicious. There’s a Prologue that has the feel of warmed-over Tolkien as seen through the lens of the “back in the good old days, everyone was a peaceful Goddess-worshipper” myth. Then, in chapter one, we meet our heroine, Ailia, in a scene that has “Mary Sue” written all over it, right down to the color-changing eyes. Fortunately, it gets better.

The Stone of the Stars consists of two parts. The first section deals with Ailia’s journey from her small island to the larger world of higher education. While there, she meets the four others who will be her companions throughout the tale: Damion, a priest having a crisis of faith; Jomar, an embittered slave; Lorelyn, a tomboyish orphan with mystical powers; and Ana, an eccentric old woman reputed to be a witch. This section is necessary to set the scene, but it takes a while for the story’s events to get rolling, and the dialogue in Part One is often stilted and info-dumpy. I have to give Alison Baird credit for originality in her setting, however; her story is set in her world’s Age of Enlightenment rather than its Middle Ages, and so many of the characters don’t believe in the supernatural until it’s staring them in the face. Sometimes not even then.

Part Two is stronger. In this section, Ailia and her companions embark on a dangerous quest. The pace picks up, and the story becomes an exciting McGuffin adventure. It’s still not perfect. There’s some more Sue-ishness, some clichés, way too much cluelessness on the part of the characters, and the most ridiculous name for a mythical beast I’ve ever run across. (An antelope-type animal called a pantheon? Seriously?) However, Part Two is a fun ride, and I was glued to the page as the good guys raced against the bad guys to find the mysterious Stone.

One of the things I thought was done particularly well was Ailia’s preconceptions of gender roles. While she chafes against the idea of a conventional “female” life, she doesn’t immediately put all of her ingrained ideas aside as soon as the adventure starts. She’s quite shocked at some of the things Lorelyn does. I think that makes Ailia realistic. It would have stretched belief if she’d become a riot grrl overnight.

The prose is serviceable with occasional moments of transcendent beauty.

Alison Baird wrote several novels for young adults before writing the Dragon Throne series. While The Stone of the Stars is billed as a fantasy for adults, it strikes me as a great novel for young girls. As an adult, I enjoyed it. At 13, I’d have treasured it, enthralled by the struggles of the two very different heroines, bookish Ailia and tomboyish Lorelyn, as they left their preordained lives and searched for their true selves. There’s no sex, and the violence is not explicit, so there’s nothing that would be inappropriate for a girl of 12 or 13, and I think that’s the age group that would like The Stone of the Stars best.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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