The Bleeding Stone by Joseph John Lee – SPFBO 9 Review!!!

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Here’s the YouTube — or you skip down to the werds

So, I knew nothing about this other than the fact the cover gave me sort of historical fiction vibes. That’s kind of true, I’m not sure what specifically qualifies as historical fiction when it’s set in a secondary world. This draws strongly on the colonization of America, it’s just not America and when Europeans came over here to settle, it’s called Ferranda and it’s an island nation.

The prologue opens the story with the perspective of the invaders, and my fucking god was this guy just so in love with himself. Everyone loves him, reveres him as a god, and he’s super into it. He reminds me of that Shrek character, Prince Charming, but worse. He enjoys making people work overly-hard, loves it when they bow and scrape, and he’s easily annoyed and ridiculously abrasive and entitled. So, he gets up in front of an audience at the start and gives this speech about the foundation of the island and his part in it and honestly, it is a huge info dump… but I’m allowing it. Others may be annoyed by it, I am almost always annoyed by stuff like this, but the set up and delivery all made sense and so I gave it a pass. So, Auruchs is our prologue character and he comes back for interludes.

The first actual chapter is of Brynn and he’s one of two main POVs, a brother and sister from the indigenous point of view. He’s going through a coming of age ritual and he has a vision quest like thing where he talks to an owl god who tells him his greatest asset is going to be his mind and gives him a challenge. He rises to the occassion, survives, and is granted status of a man. Well, when he’s awakening from his vision quest like thing his whole family is there except for his sister who is off getting shit faced drunk.

His sister is also the second pov and she’s a mess at the start of this. Unlike her brother who was born under a sign, she was born during an eclipse and there was no sign in the sky. The midwives and older folks were all like, don’t have a kid while the signs aren’t visible… but babies do what babies do and so Sen was born under blackness and it’s considered a curse. It hasn’t happened for hundreds of years but it’s not supposed to be a good thing and if she was anyone but the chieftain’s oldest daughter, she would have been shunned and left to die an infant. She knows it, and so she drinks — at least that’s part of the reason why.

So, the invaders and her family come to blows, it all goes wrong, people get enslaved, killed, and her tribe and family are ripped apart. And this is where the plot starts to really kick off. Now, it took a while to get here but the pacing did pick up for me once all the setup was out of the way.

My biggest complaint through this whole thing is the occasional nail on a chalkboard effect of awkward word choice — at least in my personal opinion. Your mileage may vary with this. Just using a couple examples for clarity, in the beginning a character was described as “sweating out of every orifice” and it hit my ear wrong. I went to just make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding the meaning and looked at the definition of orifice and it indeed means ‘larger vent’ like a mouth, nose, ass… etc. It really can’t stand in for something like pores and so there were a few instances of word choice where it didn’t quite strike my ear correctly. Keep in mind I am a reader who is hypersensitive to overused words, awkward word choice, and tonal changes through inconsistent word choice. You may not notice things that I did, or if you do you may not give a hoot. I do encourage people to pick this up. It’s ambitious, it’s got heart, it has a lot to offer — particularly those looking for books with a strong indigenous perspective and anti-colonial themes.

For now. This book is SAFE. No scores this year. Just safe or cut until the semifinals!

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