By: Allegra Pescatore
Genre: Gaslamp/Epic Fantasy
Publisher: AO Collective Publishing
Shown on page: Ableism, Racism, Rape (non-graphic, non-violent), Drug/alcohol use (medically necessary), Child abduction
Alluded to: Self harm, Homophobia, Child harm
“We have chosen to embark on this path together, Merihem. You told me the risks, and I accept them. If the worst comes to pass and I am gone when the Mother in Gold returns to us, promise me that you will help my people…Help them old friend, as I once helped you.” From a letter to Merihem “Moe” Crystal, from Fulsixia the Red Dragon. Allegra Pescatore, Whispers of Stone
Whispers of Stone is the second book in the Last Gift series by Allegra Pescatore. The series continues to be an excellent epic romantic fantasy that I am totally engrossed in. I am invested in the richly developed characters Ms. Pescatore created, most notably the two main protagonists, Elenor Lirion and Gabriel Navarl. All of the characters in these books are so well-developed, and there is such a diversity of features to each one. They elicit such a visceral response from the reader, from the good characters, those that are morally gray, and those that are, quite simply, sadistic. Ms. Pescatore writes each one with equanimity, and it was brilliant. There are more layers of political intrigue in this book than an onion. It keeps peeling back, revealing story lines that keep the reader guessing at to what will happen next, and it is a storytelling at its absolute finest. Whispers of Stone picks up right after the events of Where Shadows lie. Thrust into the position of Queen Regent of Lirin, Elenor must deal with the ongoing betrayals, her loves, her disability and illness, while facing charges of her part in the death of her father. The magic system remains the same, but more uniqueness is added to it, and it was beyond imaginative. Many of the characters remain the same, with some important additions. Elenor is a strong female protagonist, who puts everyone and her country above her own needs and safety. An unlikely, but strong bond forms between Elenor and Gabriel, and she still has her deep love for Claire. They are both, along with her doena, Paul very protective of her. Whispers of Stone continues this exciting, page-turning fantasy that once again drew me in from the first page.
The strong point in this book continues to be the character development. Elenor has taken on a role for which is ill prepared for, given the infighting and politics of court. She has a disease for which she needs daily medication for pain, and often needs a cane or wheelchair. The medication is just as bad as the disease and Gabriel, with his medical training from Tirit Mindel, takes on the role of her doctor. Claire and Paul are always steadfast in their loyalty and love for her. While her disease is addressed more in this book, Elenor still remains a strong female protagonist. Despite her pain, she pushes through and does what she needs to do to put Lirin back together after the cruel policies of her father. While Gabriel, Claire, Paul, are protective of her because of her illness and not wanting to see her suffer, they care about her for who she is. Elenor is kind, caring, loyal and loving, and it is these traits that people love, or some will take advantage of. Gabriel, no longer imprisoned and tortured, finds an unlikely kindred spirit in Elenor. Their budding friendship is truly a joy to see, as Gabriel realizes she is not the cruel, abusive despot her father was.
One of the new characters that certainly needs mentioning is Elenore’s aunt, Sianta Miri, Queen Regent of Miriel. She was mentioned in the first book, but takes on a prominent role in this one. I’ve read my share of fantasy, including grimdark. This woman makes the worst character in grimdark look like a saint. Sianta goes beyond sadistic and Ms. Pescatore wrote her so well. We found out in the last book it was Sianta that injected Elenor, at the age of six, with blood containing the wasting disease. She gets even more cruel in this book. Elenor, rightly so, is very frightened of her as she comes to Lirin for Elenor’s father’s funeral. No one knows how Elenor got sick as she refuses to talk about it. With her aunt on the way, she finally tells Claire, Gabriel and a few other characters what happened. Paul could only watch helplessly as her aunt injected her and he has been at her side ever since. Gabriel is completely stunned, and this is an absolutely perfect reaction:
“What the actual fuck is wrong with your family?” he asked…
“Welcome to court, Gabriel,” Eric sneered, “where everything you say is a tool for someone to use to take you down, and everyone you think you can trust is probably working behind your back to do it.” Allegra Pescatore, Whispers of Stone
Fayrian, and Fedrik are in the Mondaer Desert after running from Tirit Mindel. We know that Fedrik has a dangerous gift, the Gatekeeper, and when it manifested, he accidentally killed the Red, the dragon the Mondaer worship. Fedrik, along with Fay, must work to get this destructive power under control. Much of the other characters are back, but the nobility and Sianta take on more prominent role in the aftermath of the death of King.
As with Where Shadows Lie, the pacing and prose of the story was exceptional. It was absorbed right in from the first page of the prologue. There was the action of the court intrigue, taking care of Elenor’s illness as she tried to maneuver the forces against her, what was happening in the Mondaer with Fedrik and Fay, Daemon’s motives, and the cruelty of Sianta. There was an equal amount of character development, which of course tied into the action, and these were moments where we see some of the true colors of the characters. The narrative is once again told from the third person of the main characters, with the addition of North, Riona, and Alehan. They are pivotal, and their relationship to the other characters is complex and unfolds throughout the story. The dragons are ever present and maneuvering things around like pieces on a chessboard. Even with so much happening in the story, it is never confusing. Quite the opposite. When something was revealed, my thought was, well, I didn’t see that coming. I find Ms. Pescatore’s writing beautiful. When the characters interact, we feel their emotions and reactions. There are so many examples, this is but one as Elenor, with all her mixed emotions, says goodbye to her father:
“Elenor looked down at him one last time, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a spring of evergold she has picked in her garden on the way here. She carefully lifted the shroud and tucked the little yellow flower in his beard, like she had so often as a child.”
“Goodbye, Papa.” She bent to kiss his brow. “I’m sorry.” Alegra Pescatore, Whispers of Stone
Whispers of Stone is the superb second book in The Last Gift series. Leading off right where Where Shadows Lie, is continues the story of Elenor Lirin, now Queen Regent, and Gabriel Navarl, rescued from the king’s torture by Elenor. Their budding friendship is a joy to read, as two broken people find each other, learn to trust and become fiercely loyal to each other. Claire is still her love and will forever be, and Paul is more than her protector, he is more like a father to her. The three do what they can to protect Elenor from forces that are closing in around her, threatening her life and Lirin. Her horribly abusive aunt Sianta, Queen Regent of Miriel, is a character that plays a major role in this book and she is truly a nightmare. She’s that one relative you probably want to drop in the middle of Antarctica and leave her there. Ms. Pescatore wrote each of these characters perfectly, the good and the bad, and the morally gray. They are so well-written, they elicit such a visceral response. Even though I truly hated Sianta, she’s a brilliant character. She is the counter to the kind, good, and selfless nature of Elenor, which unfortunately too many try to take advantage of. It’s always wonderful to have the continued LBGTQ representation, the deep love of Elenor and Claire. The pacing and the prose were excellent, and Whispers of Stone had even more twists and turns than Where Shadows Lie. I could not stop reading, as I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters, especially with the addition of Sianta. Each chapter is told by a different main character, with the addition of North, Alehan, Riona. Their relationship to the other characters is complex, but we get to know them very well by the end of the story. Ms, Pescatore keept me not only engaged, but always trying to guess what will come next, which was impossible and always surprised me. I love this series and I highly recommend both Whispers of Stone and Where Shadows Lie. I am looking forward to reading the third book, These Gossamer Strings.
Summary (from Escapist Book Tours)
A God is Dead. A Queen is Missing. Secrets are Unraveling.
On trial for the murder of the King, Elenor and Gabriel must become allies if they want to survive. His magic is spiraling out of control, awakening a mystery hidden in the very walls of the palace. She has one month to pass her Water Rite and find a way out of the marriage her parents set up.
But things are about to get much more complicated. Between sadistic family members intent on taking Elenor’s throne, Tirit Mindel breathing down Gabriel’s neck, and a Golden Dragon appearing in the sky above the Mondaer Desert with an ominous warning, more than the Kingdom of Lirin is at stake.
If that weren’t bad enough, time is ticking down for Fedrik and Fay as well. With the desert turning against them and Daemon as a questionable new ally, figuring out how to control Fedrik’s Gift has become a matter of life and death.
Picking up in the fallout of Where Shadows Lie, Whispers of Stone is the long-awaited and non-stop second installment of The Last Gift. Dive back into the world of Dracona and hold onto your hats. Things are about to get… salty.
My thanks to Escapist Tours for providing me with an eBook for an honest review
Find out more about Allegra Pescatore on her website at: https://www.authorallegra.com/