Thursday, April 19, 2018

Author Spotlight: Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier + Interview

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 9:00 AM

Makiia is the author of historical fiction and historical fantasy for young adults. She grew up on the Pacific Island of Guam (not too far from the equator), and has degrees in journalism and library science from the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Her debut novel, A Death-Struck Year, was called a "powerful and disturbing reading experience" by Publishers Weekly. It was a finalist for Germany's top book prize for children, the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, as well as Japan's Sakura Medal, and was named an ABC Best Books for Children Selection by the American Booksellers Association.

Her second novel, Isle of Blood and Stone, will be available in Spring 2018.

Title: Isle of Blood and Stone
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publisher: HMH
Publication: April 10th 2018
Cover Rating: 3/5
Reading format: Provided ARC

After loving Makiia Lucier's A Death-Struck Year, I knew I would have to read any future books by her. And how fortunate for me, and what a wonderful surprise, when I picked up an ARC of this book at Yallfest and realized it was by the same insta-fave author who had me falling for Edmund in A Death-Struck Year. (It was clearly fate.) She has such an easy way with words, creating a world and characters rife with life I want more of. Just like in her debut novel, Isle of Blood and Stone immediately entranced me and refused to let loose my attention--seriously, I had sat down with the intent to read for forty-five minutes when I first opened it and....whoops, two and a half hours passed.

This story is about Elias, a young talented cartographer and explorer whose life, as well as the lives of his close friends Ulises and Mercedes (who are cousins), are constantly defined by one tragic moment that happened long ago: Ulises' older brothers, the two elder princes of their nation, and Elias' father, a famous and much praised cartographer and explorer, were kidnapped from an outing--everyone else who came perished, and no one knows what happened to the stolen boys and man. This brought forth so many massive changes to their world: it spurred a war with another nation that ends in that nation's total destruction and a prejudice against its people; Ulises, an infant at the time of the tragic incident, goes from third in line of ascendancy to the direct heir to the crown, his entire life course changed to one of staunch duty to his nation; Mercedes, of mixed heritage that includes the conquered nation blamed for the kidnapping, deals with daily prejudice in a land that is her home but her skin causes discrimination despite her connection to King Ulises; and Elias, our protagonist, lives in the shadow of his father's greatness and deals with reminders from others of a man he never knew. And, most importantly lest I forget my brain, the mystery that persists from that devastating outing long ago, a mystery that isn't as clear-cut as it is made out to be. 

I don't normally do this, but I want to start with what I didn't like. My reasoning for switching it up? There is hardly anything I didn't like. I'm not joking. My only complaint is that there are a few questions left unanswered regarding backstory of secondary characters, but seeing as this is a duology, the next book from young Reyna's perspective, I am forgiving of these few unanswered questions. Not to mention, this book so thoroughly tickled my fantasy fancy that those unanswered question hardly register. A little unsolved mystery never killed anybody! (Channeling my Gatsby twist a la the DiCaprio version's soundtrack. :) )

What most impressed me was the brilliant simplicity of the mystery and the factors that led to the disappearance of Ulises' brothers and Elias' father. For years it is assumed their tragic disappearance was a kidnapping executed by a neighboring kingdom. Everything known by the public points that direction, but things aren't adding up. Thus ensues one o the most interesting YA fantasy mysteries I've ever read, because Elias, Ulises, and Mercedes being to unravel the years' long mystery after realizing it was a story wrought with many holes. Going off on a related tangent, the mystery's reveal reminded me of the one in Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas, but Lucier's is much more effective and makes you realized just how twisted the true antagonist is in Isle of Blood and Stone. This won't make sense until you have read the book, but it is cleverly titled and I find it brilliant after the fact. That isn't a spoiler, I swear it.

Another aspect of this book I cannot emphasize enough is the positive step-family relationships. In real life and fiction, too often the step-family is treated as a negative, a point of contention or evil, a trope. In Isle of Blood and Stone, there is a bit of tension created by Elias' stepfather, but not of the predictable trope variety. Oh no, I cannot reveal specifics, but I want you to know it is an understandable tension, but it doesn't lead to dislike or hate. Though not related by blood, Elias and his step-father care deeply for each other, choosing to be a family and embrace their father/son roles. This positive representation of a normally negative trope warmed my heart. It wasn't even something I realized was lacking from books (in general) until I read this book.

I also found the budding romance between Elias and Mercedes a joy to witness. From the beginning, you see its bud, but to watch it fully bloom over the course of a couple hundred pages, and in such a natural, non-overpowering manner...I swooned a lot at the slow burn. They are relationship goals.

All around, without a doubt, a 5 out of 5 bitchin' stars from me. 

1) Where did the inspiration for Isle of Blood and Stone come from?
As a kid growing up on Guam, I was obsessed with the Indiana Jones movies. I wore out our VHS copy of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I waited in line, in the sweltering, tropical heat, on opening days for The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. The snakes were awesome and so were the catacombs full of rats. But what I really loved was how Indy solved puzzles, turning the clues over in his mind, and using his knowledge of art, history, and myth. Isle of Blood and Stone was inspired by my love of adventure stories with smart, funny, brave heroes. It is the kind of story I grew up loving, the kind I would wait hours outside a movie theater to see.

2) Did you always want to be an author?
I didn’t. I went to graduate school because I wanted to be a librarian. Specifically, I wanted to be Nancy Pearl. I think she’s awesome. But after two years of studying literature for children and young adults, ideas started running through my brain in a never ending loop. A pretty girl driving a Ford. An angry exchange with a soldier. Mt. Hood in the background. A flu epidemic. Finally, to quiet the voices in my head, I drove to Office Depot. I picked up some pencils, bought a few notebooks, and thought, How hard can it be? I still laugh when I think about it. That’s when I wrote my first book, A Death-Struck Year.

3) If you had to pitch your book to someone in a bookstore, and they didn't know you were
the author, what would you say?
Hmm. I would describe it as Indiana Jones meets The Princess Bride. Maybe I would say something about it being an adventure, a story about a young man, a royal mapmaker named Elias, who tries to solve a mystery surrounding the disappearance of two boy princes.

4) How many books do you personally own?
I read this question, and then I walked around the house looking at all the books in all the rooms. I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I have plenty. Never enough, though!

5) Who are some of your favorite YA authors?
Juliet Marillier, Jennifer Donnelly, Julie Berry, Marcus Sedgwick, Kristin Cashore, and Rick Yancey.


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