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Book Review: The Bleeding Stone

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“The island nation of Ferranda is the jewel of the Acrarian Kingdom, and its Founder, Aritz a Mata, is revered as a god amongst men. But twenty-five years ago, Aritz was merely a man, a colonizer, an Invader seeking glory and fame in the name of his King and Queen, and Ferranda was a nameless union of indigenous Tribes, reverent of the heightened powers and aptitudes granted to them by their Animal Deities, but sundered by the foreigners claiming their lands to the south.

In the unconquered north, the Stone Tribe has for fifteen years offered a safe haven for the southern Tribes displaced by Aritz’s Invaders, whose occupying march north has been ostensibly halted by a dense forest barrier dividing north and south. Among the Stone people lives Sen, an outcast for the circumstances of her birth, preserved in society only by her status as daughter of her Tribe’s Chief. Forever relegated to the fringes of society, she is forced to watch as countless of her kin, including her sister and brother, complete their rites of passage into adulthood and accordingly earn their aptitudes by the Deity to whom they share an affinity – the Bear, the Wolf, or the Owl.

Despite this, Sen finds comfort in her life of forced solitude with her close inner circle, but hers is a comfort in days of waning tenuous peace. When Aritz’s technologically-advanced forces push north, Sen is thrust into a singular quest to rescue one of her precious few captured in the ensuing struggle. While her goal is earnest – save someone dear to her and prove her worth to her Tribe – her people’s goal is far more dire: survival in the face of uncertainty.”

Title: The Bleeding Stone

Series: The Spellbinders and the Gunslingers #1

Author: Joseph John Lee

Page Count: 387

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5.0/5.0

Date Read: June 16th, 2023

The Bleeding Stone recently hit my radar just before the announcement of it being an entry into the SPFBO-9 competition. It was only fair to add this to my TBR. I’ve been hearing some good things about it so I wanted to get to it sooner rather than later. So June it was!
This book did not disappoint me in the slightest. Admittedly, it was a lot more emotional and depressing than I expected going in. I honestly was a bit emotionally drained by the end of this one. I posted on social media that it’s been quite some time since I felt so strongly about characters that I’d say I despise them, but this one included a couple!
The pacing was done well. Though at times things may have felt like they were slowing down a bit. The tension or anxiety was almost ever present in this story. I will mention we do have a bit of time hopping throughout The Bleeding Stone. I know this can be a bit jarring at times. Luckily Joe does include the time information at the beginning of each chapter to keep us on track. I’m not sure how well such a story would translate into an audio but for my visual read I didn’t have too much trouble with it.
The world building was on a grand scale for this one. I loved the different cultures, regions, styles and beliefs that are laid out along this journey. The differences between the invaders and even between each tribe really added to the diversity of this story. A lot of book one here takes place within the mountains and the Stone Tribe area with us simply learning a bit about the various other regions and it’s people. But in the second half we begin to really expand on this and start to experience some of these as well.
The character development was also a shining aspect to this story. As mentioned above with such a diverse number of cultures and regions we were bound to have quite the range of characters as well. Things were fairly steady the first half of the book but then things really started to open up. We also see many of our characters change along the way. Making things even more interesting is in some of the memories we find out relationships were very different in years past compared to where they have ended up in the later years.
This was one of those edge of your seat reads throughout most of the first book. At teams I wanted to reach into the pages and throttle some of these characters. And that is saying something because I’m not a violent person. I don’t even like to use the word hate if that tells you anything. But the way The Bleeding Stone finished up, I’ve just got to see where this story goes from here! In the meantime, I’m hoping to dip into some more light hearted reads to recover from this one a bit.
I’d recommend The Bleeding Stone to most fans of epic fantasy. The only caution I will throw out there is this time period does include some firearm technology. So if that doesn’t bother you and you don’t mind some heavy emotional feelings being tested, add this one to your list!

World Building 5/5
Pacing 4.5/5
Character Development 5/5

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Chad Barnard

Owner/Operator of The Hiking Reader Blog. Sharing thoughts on books and hiking trails and trying to find ways to continue to incorporate both hobbies together.

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