*Thank you to Orca Books for providing me with an ARC of this book. Some parts may have been changed as I did not read the final book. Please know that all of the expressed thoughts are my honest opinions.
The Stone of Sorrow by Brooke Carter is an Icelandic based mythology book with strong themes of family bonds. The book follows the main character Runa as she goes on a cross country adventure with two other strangers to save her sister, who was taken by an evil witch. Together they face supernatural creatures, all while wondering whether the others are trustworthy and fighting against a ticking clock. I was drawn to the book because of the mythology element, but the book sadly didn't meet my expectations. Primarily, I was left disappointed by the writing and characters.
The book is marketed as a young adult novel, but I feel an older MG classification would fit better. The writing, vocabulary, and plot are the main reasons I think it would fit better under the MG umbrella. In short, the dialogues and descriptions are out of place and awkward. Having read an ARC, I know that some of the things that I am going to be mentioning may have been edited, but these observations are throughout the novel. In many places, readers receive the same information more than once. But, the information given isn't forgettable the first time around. An example at the forefront of my mind is about Runa's sickness. The reader learns about Runa's dizzyness/sickness only to reiterate it a sentence later in a conversation between Runa and her sister. It would have felt maybe more natural if the readers learned about Runa's aliments via the conversation with her sister.
There were also many mentions of feelings and moments of love. Maybe it is just me, but some of these mentions rubbed me the wrong way. It is a super minor flaw, but it did end up taking me out of the story. In another instance, Runa calls the wicked witch "evil Katla" right after establishing that Katla is the evil witch that kidnapped her sister. Not only was it redundant, but it also made Runa seem way younger than she is. Runa is seventeen but acts years younger, which I'll touch on more in a little bit. Her internal monologue is also incredibly self-deprecating and berating. Some self-deprecation is normal in anyone's life. Runa was constantly belittling herself, and if this book is aimed even at a younger YA group, I cannot see it being a good example. Runa blames herself for things she had no control over, saying that she's "a gangling freak who [causes] nothing but problems," and views herself as "freaking Runa with the broken mind."
Character-wise, I was only able to get a good understanding of Runa. I felt that all the other characters were more two dimensional –– they weren't memorable for me. I do remember that there was LGBTQ+ representation in the book, though! Runa also didn't feel like a fully developed character either. My biggest annoyance was the lack of character growth. I can easily see the parts where Carter tried to build her character, but it read more like a sharp 180º turn in personality. It was extremely artificial at points and forced. As I mentioned before, she is seventeen, which I find incredibly hard to believe. Her inner monologue and behavior make her seem about 12. She thinks everything is about her and has an annoying attitude. One of my pet peeves was that Carter described Runa almost as a Wattpad character at points. You know the types: "oh, I think I am ugly, but people tell me I'm pretty for some reason," and the "I am so worthless, but I am the only one who can save the day." Runa was a mix of these two.
I saw potential in the plot line and story. I love learning about mythology from other cultures and underdog stories. I also enjoyed the family aspect of this book. Runa was super close with her sister, and they had a great relationship. However, all the other plot and story aspects rubbed me the wrong way. There was the use of tropes and cliches, which aren't inherently wrong, but they weren't able to add a lot to the story. The adventure that Runa goes on had its exciting moments. She and her group would have fairytale encounters and moments of action. The book was a quick read, but the story progressed slowly. If there was more action and it moved faster, I would have liked the story more. That said, I liked reading about all the different challenges and stops they had to make on their way to the competition. At times it did feel like they were making to-do/checklist stops, but that didn't bother me too much. What bothered me the most was the ending. Carter had built this whole story on the goal of Runa getting to the competition to save her sister and win back the magical stone. The journey to the moonstone competition was challenging and long (roughly 250 pages), and the battle took a minute (basically a page). It was frustrating to have traveled, so to say, this far with Runa only to have the final moment last less than a stop they made on the road. I was hoping for a big battle at the competition, and it fell short (quite literally). In the end, Carter threw in an exciting, abet slightly predictable, twist. I'm not going to elaborate too much, but I made me look back over the whole novel and wonder what the next one would bring.
The Stone of Sorrow is a novel filled with rich Icelandic mythology character and strong family themes. While it is marketed as a YA book, I firmly believe that it would be better as an MG book as the themes and plot aren't as intricately developed or written as other YA books The main reasoning behind my low review is because of the underdeveloped characters and the writing in general. There were some exciting moments and a little twist at the end, but I can't see myself reading the next book nor recommending this one.