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Smoke and Stone

De : Michael R. Fletcher
Lu par : Rosa B. Watkinson
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    Description

    After a cataclysmic war of the gods, the last of humanity huddles in Bastion, a colossal ringed city. Beyond the outermost wall lies an endless desert, haunted by the souls of all the world’s dead.

    Trapped in a rigid caste system, Nuru, a young street sorcerer, lives in the outer ring. She dreams of escape and freedom. When something contacts her from beyond the wall, she risks everything and leaps at the opportunity. 

    Mother Death, a banished god seeking to reclaim her place in Bastion’s patchwork pantheon, has found her way back into the city. Akachi, born to the wealth and splendor of Bastion’s inner rings, is a priest of Cloud Serpent, Lord of the Hunt. A temple-trained sorcerer, he is tasked with bringing peace to the troublesome outer ring. 

    Drawn into a dark and violent world of assassins, gangs, and street sorcerers, he battles the spreading influence of Mother Death in a desperate attempt to save Bastion. 

    The gods are, once again, at war.

    ©2019 Michael R. Fletcher (P)2019 Michael R. Fletcher

    Ce que les auditeurs disent de Smoke and Stone

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    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Sam
    • 08/01/2020

    Excellent Grimdark in a mesoamerican setting

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Fantastic characterisation and a novel approach to magic. The world building is reminiscent of Malazan and there’s tons of depth here.

    I didn’t mind Rosa B Watkinson’s performance but found I had to listen to the whole book sped up. Her reading is tortuously slow and if I hadn’t been able to listen at a faster pace I wouldn’t have been able to listen all the way through.

    1 personne a trouvé cela utile

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour Lukasz
    • Lukasz
    • 07/07/2021

    Great

    In ancient times, healers and shamans used hallucinogenic substances to break their mental shackles and achieve transcendence. In Fletcher’s world, sorcerers devour obscene quantities of hallucinogenic mushrooms to do magic. It helps them to produce psychedelic sensations of time-space displacement or transformation into beasts. Their narcotic-shaped realities intrude upon the real world and give them preternatural skills.

    The world as we know it no longer exists. After a cataclysmic war of the gods, the last humanity huddles in Bastion, a colossal ringed city whose structure reflects its social stratification. Unprivileged inhabit the outer rings rife with violence, poverty, and crime. Wealthy and powerful live in the inner rings enjoying the relative luxury and power. Beyond the city walls lies an endless desert.

    Beyond the Sand Wall, endless desert. A dead world. She couldn’t comprehend the scale. Bastion was huge, it was everything, everywhere. As a child she dreamed of walking beyond the walls, of the freedom. You’ll get your chance. It was, however, unlikely she’d survive the fall. She’d heard sermons about the few who did. Inevitably they lay wounded and screaming in the red sand. Few lasted more than a day.


    The story follows two sorcerers whose paths intertwine. Nuru, a young street sorcerer, dreams of escape from the outer ring and freedom. It seems her talents caught the attention of Mother Death who seeks to reclaim her place in the Bastion’s Pantheon. Akachi is a priest of Cloud Serpent, Lord of the Hunt, tasked with bringing peace to the troublesome outer ring in which Nuru lives. They serve different gods and each of them is just a pawn in game humans can’t understand. Fletcher stays true to himself and does to his characters what you expect from him - he puts them through hell and ruins them.

    Fletcher doesn’t write for the squeamish, and he relishes ruining his characters as they step into madness or self-destruction. And yet, like his other books, Smoke and Stone is an addictive read thanks to a unique setting and a plot full of twisted reveals.

    Beyond the awesomeness of the premise (ringed and socially stratified city, human sorcerers as proxies to warring gods, crystal and drug-induced magic) and the moral complexities of characters’ choices, Smoke and Stone truly shines in terms of its ensemble cast. Both POV characters remain convincing and tragic, with no good choices ahead of them. After having a vision of a mythical creature (a hybrid between spider and women) Nuru is obsessed with carving its statue. Sorcerers are able to shape-shift into creatures they carve. She just needs to get some paint and tools to finish the work.

    Because of the events I can't mention (spoilers), Akashi is afraid to lose control of his life. He trashes himself on drugs, mixing them to gain preternatural skills and fight with his insecurities:

    Only after the words were out did he realize how that might sound. His thoughts swam in narcotics. Foku fought to pull his attention to the perfect gutters lining the streets. Bihurtu stretched the veil of worlds so thin he saw his spirit animals circling impatiently, ready to come to his aid. Jainkoei peeled his soul, exposed him to the gods. He felt them all around him. Their will drove him, made him dance like a marionette. He was a twig caught in the raging torrent of divine need. He couldn’t think what to say to Yejide to make it right. There wasn’t enough of him left.


    Secondary characters stand out as well, especially a mysterious girl known as Efra who bounces between cold self-interest and a desperate yearning to belong. She doesn’t believe in half-measures and behaves like a blood-thirsty lunatic but she's also smart. I won’t lie. She scares me.

    I’ve mentioned the world-building. I love the concept of the city, but the magic system based on hallucinogenics and crystals impressed me even more. I mean, there are twenty different drugs used by sorcerers to do magic and each of them has a different effect. Skilfull sorcerers mix them to prepare themselves for special feats.

    The only real complaints I have for this book are two-fold. First, I wished that there was a little more attention devoted to the worldbuilding and society stratification and its explanation. What we get is enough to follow the story and understand the tensions between casts but I would love to learn more. Second, the prose, while precise and providing the information we need, sometimes feels too casual.

    Other than that, I found Smoke and Stone enthralling and unpredictable. It has it all. A solid plot, a unique magic system, fascinating world, and memorable characters. Oh, and if you're fond of familiars in your fantasy, Nuru has one. A black viper named Isabis. A sweet creature, really. I have no idea why Nuru's friends feel uncomfortable when she's caressing the snake's scales :)

    • Global
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Utilisateur anonyme
    • 22/03/2021

    Narrator almost ruined a good book

    Loved the world building and luckily another person’s review said to speed up the narration to 1.1 without that I might not have finished it, it’s like listening to a computer text to speech just slow torture. After that the story came to life I immediately got part two.

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Dionis Blauser
    • 23/01/2021

    Amazing book

    This is now one of my favorite books. It kept getting better the farther along I read and the ending was awesome. I found myself making excuses to listen. The narrator was good.

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Hera
    • 19/01/2021

    Speed up play back to 1.1 speed

    The strange cadence of the narration is fixed by speeding up the play rate to 1.1. It sounds so much better and is not all stretched out and hard to listen to. They must have messed up the final cut when they released it. Otherwise it’s a great story and narrator.

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour FanFiAddict
    • FanFiAddict
    • 30/09/2020

    Grimdark AF

    Ancient, bloodthirsty gods, street sorcerers, rival gangs, faith, and sacrifice all come to play a part is this dark and original tale from one of the best in the biz. It’s bloody, enthralling, and grimdark as f*ck.

    I have to preface my review by stating that I, along with Petros of Booknest, alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc. read Smoke & Stone, gave my thoughts on world-building, characters, the beginning and ending, and even slapped Michael around in regard to the cover design. He was a good sport for the most part.

    Having read all of the author’s previous works, I knew that I could expect a grim and bloody tour de force of a novel, but I didn’t expect all of the intricacies the author mixed in to create a truly original story. The use of hallucinogens and wood/stone carvings to morph into god-like creatures, and even gods themselves, and leaving chaos and destruction in their wake. The uniqueness of the world-building as the entirety of it is made of separate but equal rings, each with a significant role to play in the story and its sequels.

    I also enjoyed the growth of the characters, especially Akachi. Seeing how he morphed from page 1 to the intense climax makes for a very intriguing read, especially knowing his roots from the first draft. I also enjoyed how the dynamics of Nuru and the members of her caste played out, never seeming to have an edge until just the right moment.

    You never quite know what to expect when it comes to Fletcher’s books, but one thing you do know for sure is that you are in for the ride of your life. I still, to this day, do not understand why he, among several other indie authors, is not a more mainstream name when it comes to fantasy/grimdark. I get that his material is pitch-black dark and he uses quite coarse language to get his message across, but Abercrombie seems to do well from what I can see. Fletcher needs to be a household name, and anyone who believes Anna Smith Spark’s and Ed McDonald’s books are phenomenal need to give Beyond Redemption & The Mirror’s Truth a go, let alone Smoke & Stone.

    • Global
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      5 out of 5 stars
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    • Ollie@TheStoneCloud
    • 07/01/2020

    Highly Recommend this story to all Fantasy fans!!

    If someone sat down and asked about what type of elements and ideas I would love to see in a darker fantasy novel, this is the book that would have resulted. The worldbuiding, although not overly described, was ingeniously woven throughout the story, and you feel it there, supporting the great characters along the way to their destiny, which becomes intertwined with the future of Bastion itself. A destiny of hallucinogenic, Godpowered, shapeshifting human monsters feeding the city with blood.
    From Plant hallucinogens, mesoamerican priests ingesting said plants, wars between deities, a circular city made of inner circular levels that separate society by status, and cut out of one unimaginable block of uncut stone. Dont forget the crazed, underexperienced and overwhelmed priest taking on a poor girl with powers and a destiny unknown, witty banter, soul carrying blades, and blood, lots of blood to boot. And you have the start of a fantastic series.
    The characters are made of A Priest and his bodyguards, sent to the outer circle to bring control and maintain order where the “growers” live. The growers are the poorest, simplest, and most suffering people. Populating the outer ring of Bastion and supplying the inner rings with food, grown from crops. Nothing but the most basic of tools is given to them to carry out their main purpose. There is little comfort to be found here, even their children are taken and sent inward. Priests are sent here to provide spiritual words to control, as well as to be judge and jury to any offence. Priest’s are protected by the “birds”, trained in combat to defend the priests is their purpose, and in this case, the birds serving this Priest are great additions to the story.
    The conflict here is a result of a small group, or gang of growers led by Nuru, a powerful young woman driven to change and escape the status quo. Nuru, She is dark, single minded, and brave and strong on the surface but will learn that she hears the things she has to do She is but a product of the society, and uses her plant drugs to help her hear and understand what the plant induced visions are showing her. Of course, this is illegal and before long, the new Priest Akachi, is on the hunt for her and her gang. The mesoamerican inspired names for deities are so perfect for the setting, Cloud Serpent, Smoking Mirror, Mother Death, and I’m guessing that the Gods will play a bigger part in book 2. Nuru and Akachi use the plants to bring themselves into the God/Goddesses dark, smoky and ever changing realm of truths.
    I really enjoyed Rosa B. Watkinson’s narration of this book. At first, I wasnt entirely sure her style was working for me. However, after a couple chapters I was on board and ended up really enjoying some of her characters voices
    I was reminiscing a lot while reading this, as a result of the content, which I’ll explain by including some info about myself. When in high school, I was fascinated with the Mayan/Meso-American language, calendar and their use of plant entheogens…ummm, plants and animals that contain a psychoactive substance that can result in hallucinogenic and hopefully spiritual experiences. In some case, downright horrifying in the most life changing way. It0 was the mid to late 90’s and talk of the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 had not really taken off yet. I dreamt of being an anthropologist or archeologist, sent off to the jungle to uncover long lost mysteries of these fascinating and complex cities hidden in some of the densest jungles on the planet. Although my life went a different direction, getting to know the Mayan calendar and having my imagination fired by their mysterious cities in the jungle has stayed with me, and this story really brought that back to me.
    I’m excited for book 2 and wanted to say this was a great fantasy with complex people on the verge of discovery. I hope to see more of the rings of Bastion as well!