“Hope is the cruelest trap of all.“
Only the Stones Survive follows the story of the Túatha Dé Danann, a peaceful community living in harmony on a mysterious island that seems to have a life of its own. Time and seasons flow more gently and its inhabitants are long-lived. The Dananns have actually been around for so long that they don’t remember the cruelty of humans and so, when the Gaels, the Children of Milesios, Gallic invaders arrive on the island with their children and families, the Dannans don’t have the heart to stop them.
However, once the invaders realize that they are not alone, their only aim is to destroy the Túatha Dé Danann.
This story follows different characters set on each side of the conflict. The main character is Joss, a young Danann (basically an elf), whose parents are murdered by the invaders and who learn to grow as an adult very fast to protect the remains of his people. We also have other moments seen by Eremon, the leader of the Gaels but also from his brother, a druid and bard named Amergin. Those are the three main perspectives of the story, Llewyn introduced other POVs but they don’t have that much in importance in the book.
Okay. I think I am going to start with everything that was wrong in this book and then explain why I still finished despite my resolutions of DNFing books that I don’t enjoy or that have a lot of issues with.
This book is 304 pages long. And that may be the cause of all its problems.
First of all, the pacing of the story was completely off. Our main character Joss does nothing for more than half of the book except telling us about the beauty of his community and how boring his lessons are. However each times an important event is about to take place we don’t read about it because the scene is cut. For example, the first attack on the Túatha Dé Danann is told as follows : “the chariots thundered toward the startled Dananns and the air was torn by raucous Gaelic war cries. When it was over-the battle took no time at all-a dozen dead bodies lay in the bloody shallows.”
I am not the biggest fan of battle scenes but, come on, really ? And Llewyn did that quite a couple of time which was pretty frustrating because, how are you suppose to feel sorry for the Dananns if more than two thirds of the emotional scenes are cut out ?
Another problem of the size of the book was that except for Joss, we didn’t have any character development. Most of the characters were one dimensional and we didn’t have any ‘morally grey’ characters at all. Either you were an abject human being and extremely dumb or you were a knight in shining armor. Totally believable.
My last issue with this book was that… well it didn’t feel like a book. Let me explain myself. All the elements for a book were there but it felt like a condensed version of the book, like a summary. Some sentences were incredibly beautiful and other felt really weird and clunky. Sometimes the pacing was great and I was really into the book and then, because of an extremely weird sentence or a scene that was left out… not so much. It was a pretty frustrating experience to say the least.
However, as much as the book was uneven, I was interested in the story and so I managed to finish the book fairly quickly. As I said before some parts of the story were very well-written, and for those moments, I guess that this book is worth reading.
“Hate is festering illness of the spirit born of fear, Joss. Those who hate are so consumed by fear that they may kill for the sake of killing-as if by taking another creature’s life they could add the stolen span to their own.“
I know it may sounds weird because of all the problems that I highlighted before but this book was actually pretty hard to put down. It may have be because of the setting since I love books based on mythology and the rare books that I read about Irish folklore always interested me. I also love elves and even if the Dananns weren’t exactly portrayed as elves, they still had pointed ears, loved nature and were basically immortal so for me, that actually counts as elves. 😉
And I don’t regret reading it. I was glad to finish it, the ending was satisfying even if it was pretty easy to guess.
“The ever-present wind blew across the ridge. Birds sang in the trees at the foot of the slope. Forever flowed on, like the curve of the spiral.”
I don’t know if I’ll recommend it to everyone but if you are interested by an alternative take on Irish mythology, you may actually find yourself enjoying this quite a lot.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book will come out the 6th of January from Tor Books.