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Fraction of Stone by Kelley Lynn
Published: March 21, 2013, Sapphire Star Publishing
Series: Fraction, #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: eArc for blog tour
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It seemed like such a simple answer. The world is dying. He could save it. The heroes in all the stories he'd ever heard always saved the world. Always. Why should this be any different? Because in the stories the heroes saved a world worth saving.
There is only one among the Tarmack nation with the ability to wield magic, eighteen-year-old Rydan Gale. He lives like a prince, cherished for his talent to bend the fabric of the universe to his will. In the war against the Liasam, he is their ultimate weapon.
The Liasam have a source of magic as well, but Akara’s mastery of her power is rudimentary at best. With a brilliant display of fire-rain Rydan’s side wins the war, giving the Tarmack sole control over dwindling resources due to the natural disasters ripping apart the earth.
When Akara is sentenced to death, Rydan questions the motive, and discovers the leaders of the newly unified nation fear magic above all else. With war a memory, his skills no longer needed, Rydan suspects he is next. Throwing away every comfort, he pulls Akara from the flames of her execution and their lives as fugitives begin.
Both have a tattoo on the back of their neck, the mark of an extinguished tribe. They discover the natural disasters plaguing the world are due to the tribe’s demise and only Rydan and Akara can save the crumbling world.
But the greatest obstacle for saving mankind isn’t the bizarre creatures and determined men hunting them.
It’s that Akara doesn’t believe the world is worth saving.
What makes Fraction of Stone such a fascinating book is Lynn's narrative decision to choose two completely different characters as narrators, effectively pitting them and their beliefs against one another. As the synopsis reveals, Akara, one of the protagonists, can be viewed as an anti-hero. She has suffered in so many ways throughout her life and simply wishes for respite through death, fully aware that her refusal to save herself and aid Rydan most likely means the end of the world itself. Rydan, the other narrator, is much more of a traditional hero who champions his beliefs that the world needs saving and is willing to shoulder the responsibility that comes with being one of the last people left who has magic. The dynamic between Akara and Rydan is wrought with tension and ultimately the best part of this novel.
Although ambitious in her attempts to create a story with two very different protagonists, I found myself having varied opinions of execution of Lynn's characters. First of all, Akara's character is wonderfully constructed. All of her life she's been lead to believe that she's too stupid to control her magic, and that her magic is a curse. Aside from one or two failed attempts to train her when she was a child, no one has since treated her as anything other than a dangerous and deadly weapon, only to be used as a last resort in the war against Tarmack. When readers first meet Akara, she is so physically and mentally exhausted that she cannot even recall her own name. Akara's journey throughout the book is a painful one, as even the wildly optimistic and happy-go-lucky Rydan begins to realize just how damaged Akara really is by the years of neglect and abuse in the hands of the Liasam nation. Her gradual development towards an acceptance of self and better understanding of others is painfully slow at times, but that makes it all the more realistic. While I am not saying I like my characters to be damaged necessarily, I think Akara's damages are well drawn out and really do emphasize the great questions at stake: How do we determine whether others are worth saving? When should we be selfish about our own needs, and when should we care about the needs of others?
Against Akara I'm afraid that our other narrator, Rydan, is not nearly as impressive. The intricacies that make up Akara's character fall flat against Rydan, as does his sense of voice. Respected for his magic and the role only he can play in Tarmack's war against Liasam, Rydan has led a life of privilege. That's fine and understandable, but it certainly made him a rather bland character. After saving Akara from eminent death, Rydan does begin to question his life and the future plans that Tarmack has for him, now that the war is over. His characterization and development throughout the novel felt very formulaic to me, however. Ultimately I just wasn't quite convinced of the authenticity of his character.
I really liked how Lynn focuses on climate change, an issue that's in the forefront of our modern, present-day minds, and made it relevant in the world of Casden. The war between Liasam and Tarmack is primarily due to a struggle for diminishing resources in a world that is literally crumbling around everyone. Over the course of Rydan and Akara's journey, readers are shown a world ruled by the chaos of nature, where one moment the sky will be clear, and the next a massive tornado or hurricane will appear. The novel's explanation for the increase in mass destruction? The elimination of the Namaqua people, the people who once possessed magic. For in Casden, magic is what knits the very fibers of the world together. Akara and Rydan (well, more Rydan) realize that as the last two possessors of magic, they are the only people who can prevent the self-destruction of the world and must travel across the land to bring together the broken pieces of the magic-possessing Gia Stone.
In some instances Fraction of Stone does read like a debut. The dialogue itself is very stilted and forced. Much of it is used for unnecessary explanations, instead of simply allowing the readers to infer bigger concepts and meanings. Even in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world, I could not buy that the characters would really talk the way that they do. A good portion of the plot also relies heavily on coincidental meetings, especially with the "determined men hunting them." I could not quite buy all those chance meetings, nor did I truly understand why Tarmack was so dead-set on Akara's execution. I understand that through the death of one sacrifice Tarmack would try to peacefully acquire Liasam. But since there are only two magic-bearers left in the world, wouldn't it make more sense to allow Akara to live? This issue is raised in the book, although I wish it had been give a little more precedence.
Despite a few misgivings I had with Fraction of Stone, I did enjoy the fresh perspective that Lynn offers on sacrifice, personhood, and identity. Akara's characterization was a delight to read, even if Rydan's was not as much, and I ultimately found myself very curious to see how (and if) the two of them would be able to save a world that wants to deny and eradicate their existence. I felt like the ending, while a bit open, could have still effectively concludes Rydan and Akara's story arcs, so I am interested to see where Lynn takes their story next.
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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book as part of a blog tour hosted by Xpresso Blog Tours but that in no way influenced by review. The quote is from an advanced copy of the novel and is subject to change in the finished copy.