Title: Stone Rose
Author: Megan Derr
Cover Artist: London Burden
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Buy Link: Stone Rose (The Lost Gods)
Genre: M/M/M fantasy romance
Length: 77,000 words
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A Guest review by Jenre
Summary review: The third in the Lost Gods series shows off the talent that this author has for fantasy writing.
Nine gods ruled the world, until the ultimate betrayal resulted in their destruction. Now, the world is dying and only by restoring the Lost Gods can it be saved.
The Kingdom of Piedre has been torn apart by feuding since the Basilisk was found dead. The Brotherhood of the Black Rose seeks to ensure the Basilisk is destroyed forever, while the Order of the White Rose searches desperately for a way to restore him.
The latest mortal incarnation of the Lost God of Death is Prince Culebra, the Basilisk Prince. Plagued by assassins, one lover dead and the other gone, Culebra spends his days in despair, painfully aware that his predecessors died only one of two ways: murder or suicide.
Stone Rose is the third book in the Lost Gods series which I have been enjoying immensely. This book focuses on two minor characters from book 1, Treasure. The first is Culebra who is the mortal incarnation of the god of Death and as such has to keep his eyes bound at all times. One look from Culebra is deadly and as such he is feared as much as he is worshipped for who he is. The second character is the Captain of the Navy, Midori,who in that first book, allows Prince Nankyokukai to escape and as a result is forced out the navy and forced into an uncomfortable life as a diplomat. He travels to Piedre where he meets again with Culebra, who he helped to rescue from the mermaids in book 1, and they act upon a mutual attraction but before anything can come of this, Culebra is kidnapped.
Midori and Culebra are not the only characters in the book which, like the other books in the series, manages to produce an excellent emsemble cast. Culebra’s ex-lover and bodyguard, Dario, forms the third in the m/m/m trio, but this aspect is not explored until quite late in the book – although tendrils of the theme permeate the whole book. The final set of characters are Cortez, a female assassin and her friend, Fidel. These five characters form the core characters for the story, although other characters do flit in and out of the story. They move in and around each other with the main part of the story following Culebra and Cortez and the secondary plot following Dario, Fidel and Midori as they try to catch up to the others before tragedy can befall either of them. Although there are several action pieces in the story, the main focus is on character and relationship. I think this is what makes these books so sucessful because the characters breathe life into the story and are so vivid that they almost climb out of the book at you. I especially loved the troubled Culebra, with the intense pressures of his life and the terrible tragedy in his past; and Cortez who was tough as nails, had a terrible past but was also human and honourable in her own way. It was refreshing to see a strong female as a main character in an m/m book.
As well as the wonderful characters, this book also built upon the mythology and world-building of the other books. There were strong ties to the first book in the series, and I suggest that in order to really understand Midori, then that book should be read before this one. The country of Piedre, with its god of Death, is reflected in the dour stone of its cities, uncivilised population and unforgiving countryside. However, there is also laughter and brightness in the interactions between the characters and I didn’t feel this was a depressing or heavy book. There were other things about the mythology, such as the importance of snakes and the two opposite groups who seek to either worship or kill the Basilisk Prince, which furthered the setting. I really have been astonished at the level of detail in the setting in all the books in this series and this one is no exception, and yet there is no dumping of information because everything seeps through the story in the thoughts of the characters or the dialogue. Superb.
One final thing I liked was the clever way that all the characters were used as part of the plot, not just in terms of relationships, but as necessary components as each person slotted into their allotted place towards the end of the book. It appealed to me in the pleasing way everything worked out.
This was almost a five star read for me. Almost. There were a few little niggly things which prevented it from getting the full five stars. Firstly, I got a little annoyed with all the typos. Normally typos don’t bother me too much when there’s one or two, but there were a lot of typos in this book, enough that I began to notice it. Secondly, I felt the m/m/m romance was a little sudden at the end of the book. There had been some preparation for it, as I mentioned earlier, and I understood that all three men were attracted to each other, but in the end the romance was a bit overwhelmed by other events and as such squashed towards the end of the book. I could still see the characters making it in the long run, and maybe future books may show this, but I would have liked more time with all three of the men together before I could be truly happy.
Overall, if you have been following this series then this book is a must read. The complexity of the world building and the strong characterisation hits my like buttons; the mix of quiet reflective parts and action sequences delights me; and I love how bawdy humour, the raucousness of men (and women) accustomed to fighting, and yet the dignity of nobles and royalty and the underhand deviousness of politics and intrigue, all have a place in this book. I highly recommend Stone Rose and can’t wait for the next book in the series, Poison.