Top positive review
A Grimdark fantasy that represents the best in mixing horror and magic.
Reviewed in the United States on October 7, 2019
Michael R. Fletcher has written an amazing book about the devastation left by a war of gods. Filled with forced oppression, and the sacrifice of millions. Gods, who in desperation to save their worshipers, created a city in which the remains of mankind dwell. Strangely enough, it’s weirdly magical. There’s a haunting feeling of both hopelessness and possibilities.
Fletcher has an enviable knack for creating characters that make us care deeply about them, whilst they commit abominable acts. I was engrossed from chapter one and cannot wait for the follow up to this Grimdark fantasy. A dark fantasy with a dystopian feel unlike any other I’ve read in recent recollection, Fletcher’s ability to create character depth and join it seamlessly to his world building is amazing. Regardless of the violent and dangerous lifestyle and circumstances, every character draws you into their personal hell. The result is that I found this book nearly impossible to put down.
In Smoke and Stone, the city of Bastion is a made in concentric rings, each holding a caste which from wealth grows to utter poverty with each successive ring outward. In reality it’s a huge sacrificial altar to feed the gods. But which gods remain? How many remain forgotten beyond Bastion? Beyond the last wall, where the souls of the dead team in millions? Most importantly, who knows the truth? The street sorcerers or the nahualli of the priests ring? Has Mother Death found a way into Bastion? Will the gods war again?
Something is coming. The narcotics used by all sorcerers, thins the veil, allows them to see portents, and also to become a spirit animal using wooden carvings. They can see the destruction coming, if not clearly, and they fear it greatly.
While simultaneously balancing the sides of the conflict growing in Bastion, and creating emotional hooks, we are kept guessing by the author. We are intrigued by the utter ignorance of oppression and the depravity of wealth. Peoples so downtrodden in slavery, they know nothing of any comforts, even that of the love of their own children. While through a nearby gated wall lies opulence, plenty, and real families. More and more privilege and wealth is found in the rings closet to the center, while the furthest out wallow in ignorance, denied learning and even simple tools.
Smoke and Stone tosses you directly into the strangeness of one world, and the horror of another, through two main POV characters. A poor sorceress and a rich priest of the inner rings. It’s a strange mix of discovery and violence which takes the preconceptions of these characters themselves and turns them upside down. The cast which surround and support them are fleshed out and fascinating. There are no clear cut heroes. Everyone must do what they must to survive and all in Bastion are born into caste system without any aspirations of rising above their station. The poorest know very little or nothing at all of the other rings and those in power intend keep them ignorant. The truth could ignite a rebellion that could kill them all. Or worse.