Review: Songs of Stone

Cinders of Glass was one of the best fairy tale adaptations I have ever read, so it was difficult to follow up with a book that was just as romantic, compelling, and magical. Songs of Stone by Celeste Baxendell has all of those things to an extent, but it does not live up to the high pedestal that its predecessor set for it. This is the fifth book in the Bewitching Fairy Tales series and is inspired by two somewhat lesser known stories, "The Pied Piper" and "The Sandman." The book has a rough-and-tumble protagonist similar to the one in Beasts of Beauty, the third book in this series, and is a far cry from the gentle Liora in Cinders of Glass. It is jam-packed with so many references to previous books that many chapters were cumbersome to get through even though I've already read the rest of the series.

Songs of Stone by Celeste Baxendell

Piper is a tragic young lady who lost most of her family and turned to a life of crime to save the one relative she has left. She is "gifted" an enchanted fife from a wicked sorcerer, who forces her to use it to do terrible things in the hopes of saving her brother's life. She fears for her future when several of her missions bring her face to face with Prince Valens, the one person resilient and nimble enough to foil her plans. When the unlikely pair discover an unexpected attraction to each other, they attempt to run from their feelings in order to keep up appearances and maintain their opposing duties. However, a person can only run from true love for so long. Soon, their game of cat and mouse comes to an inevitable an end.

It took me a while to get into this book. I wasn't immediately drawn to the characters like I was with Cinders of Glass, and there were so many conspiracy theories revolving around loose ends from earlier books in this series that the first few chapters seemed dry and emotionless. It wasn't until the second half of the book that I began to truly understand Piper's moral struggle with the abuse she had to take and the guilt she was forced to bear in order to serve the wicked Cinnabar. A lot of the books from other fairy tale series I read are only connected by loose threads and work well as standalones. This one was so all over the place that even though I have read all of the Bewitching Fairy Tales books including the prequel novella, I still felt lost at times. Even the twist villain at the end didn't make enough of an impact for me to feel surprised or even care that much.

Though it was a slow burn, I appreciated this book when I reached the epilogue. It's hard to relate to characters who continue to make bad decisions, and Piper's guilt for her crimes doesn't shine through until the end of the book. I finally felt like I understood her when I saw how much she despised herself because of her past. Valens' ability to believe in her beyond all odds and support her even though she was supposed to be his enemy made the two a perfect match. Valens had an interesting arc because he was forced to go against the crown that he represented to help Piper even though he still wanted to prove himself to his family. In all honesty, things should not have worked out for him as well as they did, but I'm willing to let that go since this is a fairy tale after all.

Songs of Stone tries to tell a compelling story that gets bogged down by the other books from the series. It's a shame that such an amazing fairy tale adaptation as Cinders of Glass is followed up by such a mediocre sequel. I think Celeste Baxendell was so focused on building a larger overarching story that she lost sight of the story she wanted to tell in this book, at least until the last few chapters. I would recommend Songs of Stones to people who have read the other stories in the Bewitching Fairy Tales series and are interested in learning as much about the world as possible or people who enjoy fantasy stories with morally gray protagonists.

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