The Stone of Sorrow
by Brooke Carter
- Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
- Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
- Length: 312 pages
- Available: April 07, 2020
About the Author: Brooke Carter is a Canadian novelist. She is the author of several books for teens, including Another Miserable Love Song, Learning Seventeen (which was commended by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre as a Best Book for Teens), Lucky Break, and The Unbroken Hearts Club (a CCBC Starred Best Book for Teens). Brooke is available for workshops, readings, critiques, panels, and conferences, and especially loves meeting with teens and conducting writing classes.
Summary: Runa, a wild-eyed, white-haired teenager, is just trying to find footing in her clan, living under the shadow of her powerful and beloved sister, Sýr, a runecaster and keeper of the sacred moonstone that wields prosperity for their village. Besides casting spells that never feel quite right, Runa must also deal with her sickness, which causes her to have panic attacks, pass out, and witness foggy, prophetic images. She is lucky to have Sýr to help guide the way, but when a witch named Katla turns the village’s inhabitants into statues and kidnaps Sýr, it is up to Runa to save her. With the help of a fallen Valkyrie and a half-elf from a neighboring clan, she must get to moonwater to defeat the witch before she loses what is most important to her.
From the beginning, the themes of sisterhood and revenge are evident in Brooke Carter’s The Stone of Sorrow. However, as the novel progresses, the main point of interest aligns with Carter’s ability to create a world that mixes both high fantasy and Norse mythology in a way that is so seamless and compelling, it leaves the reader wondering why it isn’t done more often. It is this interweaving of magical worlds and classical viking lore that creates an especially epic setting, surpassing the typical genre expectations of a high fantasy novel, and making Carter’s first installment in this trilogy a promising start.
In addition to this innovative premise and colorful setting, Carter stands out by seemlessly incorporating feminist undetones and LGBTQ characters into this mythical Scandanavian world. The majority of the main characters, whether good or evil, are female identifying and strong-willed, actively charting their own agency throughout the story. The male counterparts play refreshing, polarized roles, generally existing only to assist the females in actualizing their destinies. Einar, the half-elf, is the best example of this, acting as the male equivalent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype as he serves as both Runa’s love interest, and a vessel that helps move her toward self-actualization. Additionally, when you look at the fact that Sýr, Runa’s sister, is in a loving relationship with another woman, and the character Oski, a fallen Valkyrie, uses they/them pronouns, what you find is a very effective way of normalizing modern values in historical fantasy. This works to denounce the heteronormative values and patriarchal themes that are a common hindrance to the genre.
Although some characters could have been developed further, and the ending left a little to be desired, Brooke Carter’s The Stone of Sorrow is a fun and exciting read, as well as a welcomed re-imagining of traditional fantasy. This female-centric epic, which feels like The Lord of the Rings was dropped into an episode of the History Channel’s Vikings, takes time-tested themes from high fantasy and Norse mythology and puts them together to create a thrilling ride.