Title & Author: Ritual of the Stones (Ballad of Frindoth, Book 1), Rob Donovan
Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy, January 2, 2014
Book Description: “Over the kingdom of Frindoth hangs the shadow of the Gloom, a wraith-like creature that emerges every twelve years, demanding a sacrifice. Twelve individuals are selected by lottery for the Ritual of the Stones and one of them will give their life for their country to keep the people safe.
When Rhact, a candle-maker, learns his daughter has been selected to take part in the Ritual, he takes his family and flees. In doing everything he can to protect his family, Rhact has no idea of the repercussions of his actions.
In the capital city of Lilyon, King Jacquard moves to quell a rebellion. Certain warlords have broken away from his council and threaten his throne. Jacquard must deal with the uprising whilst presiding over the ritual. A ritual that also sees his son selected as a participant. Jacquard must keep his focus on ruling his kingdom even if it means losing his son.
The destiny of the Kingdom relies on the Order, a group of powerful warlocks and witches but even amongst their ranks, deception and betrayal emerges. For the witch Marybeth believes she has discovered a way to defeat the Gloom. Determined to uncover the truth behind her father’s death Marybeth sets out on her own path to free Frindoth from the Gloom – A journey members of the Order are eager to stop.
The choices of these three people will change the nation and begin a battle Frindoth may never recover from.”
First Line: Pernicious.
My Take: This is an ambitious book with a story that sprawls across the lands of an entire kingdom with characters from all walks of life, with all manner of secrets and back-stories that motivate their actions. There is a sense that, along with the action, it’s meant to be a character driven story. That right there may be the focal point of the trouble I had finishing this one…I didn’t like any of the characters.
This isn’t to say that none of them are interesting but the lack of depth made them seem flat. Some of this may be the style of the writing. A lot of telling, instead of showing. In other words, their feelings were explained rather than evoked so I never felt that connection to their fears, their angers, etc. Also, when characters changed, it wasn’t by degrees based on their experiences. It was all at once. If they were bad, they became good, with no vestiges of the old way remaining.
Also, most of the women characters were much to be desired. They demonstrated courage, but their actions were usually motivated by a male character. I must say, on behalf of my gender, this bugged me.
Their motivations are believable, for the most part. The father of one of the chosen selected for possible sacrifice wants to protect his daughter. I get that, and it was nice to see a character not give a damn about the greater good for once, pack up, and try to abscond from the powers that be. But there was a subtlety missing and oftentimes their reactions and dialogue were like those of the old stage actors on the silver screen when Hollywood began to make movies. Ham city.
The Magical: Three moons of different colors and their influence over the world, is awesome. And of course, the Gloom, the great shadow lurking over everyone, is good and spooky.
The Mundane: The lack of imagery made many imaginative scenes seem, well, unimaginative. One poignant example was in the second chapter, during a storm.
“Marybeth started as a nearby tree was struck (by lightning), breaking the trunk in half and causing the top half to ignite.”
The description here certainly tells me what happened, but the words are sterile. Descriptions have more than one purpose in writing. Yes, they need to relay the scene, but they also need to convey the mood, tension and sensations. Words should be deployed, not just said. Otherwise they end up like fine silver left to tarnish in the drawer. Lackluster.
Summary of Thoughts: The premise of the story is a fascinating one with world building suitable for this genre. It has plenty of action but the writing needs polishing. There are modern day colloquialisms and plot holes that jar the reader. At one point, during the same big storm mentioned above, a character comments on the way the moonlight shines in the eyes of another character…Exactly how can one see the moonlight when the sky is overcast?
The book is currently $2.99 on the Kindle but sadly I don’t recommend it. It has all the elements of a great read but falls far short of the goal.
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