Monday, July 18, 2016

The Secret Language of Stones ~ M.J. Rose (earc) review [@mjrose @AtriaBooks]

The Secret Language of Stones: A Novel (Daughters of La Lune #2)
Atria Books
July 19, 2016
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.

Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.

So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.

But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.

So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).

The Secret Language of Stones follows the first Daughters of La Lune novel, last year's The Witch of Painted Sorrows.  This novel centers around Opaline, the daughter of The Witch's main character, Sandrine. As a young woman, it's now time for Opaline to confront the legacy or curse of being a descendant of La Lune. Whether she wants to or not.

I liked that in a lot of ways, The Secret Language of Stones was a completely separate story from The Witch of Painted Sorrows. Opaline is different from Sandrine, her mother. She knows about La Lune, knows what her mother and great-grandmother have told her. Yet, while she knows about the magic, knows the story and the lore, she's much more reticent to embrace being a daughter of La Lune.

There was not the tension and the really compelling need to find out the truth and what it all meant that there was, for me, in The Witch. Both because of Opaline's personality and that La Lune, who and what she was had already gone from unknown to known with Sandrine.

I did love the time the book was set in. Logically, I know that the World War I and the Russian Revolution shared some time; I don't think I've truly connected it before, though. I really liked how Opaline's age, her relationships (past and present) and the jewellery she makes give readers that more personal understanding of the war and its impact

As a romance, The Secret Language of Stones was not quite all that I hoped for. Any time something is called, 'a romantic ghost story,' I do have very high hopes, admittedly. My problem here was that the other character, Opaline's romantic interest never really felt real to me. He didn't feel, for lack of better phrasing, three dimensional or like a character fully separate from Opaline and her interactions with him.

Still, I very much enjoyed the rest of the story, the combination of the Paris in 1918 setting, the devastation, danger and loss from World War I, the Orloff's and their concerns over the Romanovs and Russia, and Opaline's abilities, along with what they meant was all fantastic. Plus, that ending!

(This book can be read without first reading The Witch of Painted Sorrows but I do think you will miss out on a lot of who and what La Lune is/was and what being a 'daughter' of hers could mean. )

received for review, from publisher, via NetGalley

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