Review: Stones of Light (Threadlight #2) by Zack Argyle


Rating: 8.5/10

Synopsis

The coreseal is shattered and a new darkness is coming.

Chrys swore to never again let the Apogee take control but, in a moment of desperation, he gave in. Now, he will learn what the Apogee truly wants.

In Alchea, Laurel will do anything to get her threadlight back, even if it means working for the leader of the Bloodthieves. But she has no choice…a life without threadlight is no life at all.

To the west, Alverax travels with the Zeda people to the large port city of Felia, where they seek refuge after the fires in the Fairenwild. But he shattered the coreseal, and no one quite knows what the consequences will be. They only know it won’t be good.

Together, they doomed the world…now, they must save it.

Review

Stones of Light by Zack Argyle is the sequel to 2020’s Voice of War and the second release in the author’s Threadlight series. I encourage you to read my review of Voice of War here, as I was impressed with Argyle’s ability to write relatable characters and intriguing, interweaving plot lines while still holding the main thread tight. And if book 1 is was an impressive debut, book 2 is where the author demonstrates his writing chops.

You and I walk a different path than most, and it will require us to change in uncomfortable ways.

I am starting with this quote because, in my opinion, it is a running theme in Stones of Light. While the main characters remain the same (Chrys, Laurel, Alverax), they all grow quite a bit from the first page of Voice of War to the last page of Stones of Light. They experience so much as their world has been completely upended, and each has had to make really tough choices just about every step of the way. It oftentimes feels as though they do not control their own fates, and the events of the world pull them along. That does not necessarily mean they are helpless, but what it does mean is that almost every situation is life or death for them or someone they love and that constant tension is the driving force of this series.

As sequels go, Argyle also does a really good job of introducing new characters and expanding on minor roles from the first book, as well. Willow and Alabella get more page time, which are phenomenal choices for expansion. Both have really interesting backstories and motivations, and to be able to add more of them to the experience of this book is definitely improvement. There are other very important characters that come to light, too, but I am disinclined to speak more on it for fear of spoiling parts of the story. I will say that I thought the way the character set was expanded upon in the second book was a boon for the series and sets up the next book quite nicely.

‘Just take it easy,’ Alabella said. ‘Every rose begins a bud.’

Barrick snorted. ‘As long as I don’t end up with a thorn in my arse.’

I did not mention this in my first review, but another hat tip to Argyle’s writing is the dialogue. I often find dialogue the most difficult part of a story to get right. There are so many elements that go into every single line: tone, personality, history, how it fits into the character’s storyline, fit in the overall story, as well, does it say too much, does it say too little, etc. The dialogue in this series has been spot on, for the most part. Each character’s voice is very distinct, and it is witty, smart, and really well-balanced overall.

I’ve seen plenty of good men turn sour when the sun sets.

I did talk about this a little bit, already, but I want to expand on the thought because it is so important. One aspect I look for in a second book of a series is for the plot to step up its game. It needs to get bigger, better, and more in-depth if it is going to keep my interest; and I was happy to see that is exactly what the author did with Stones of Light. Voice of War was a really good introduction to the storylines that are ongoing in the sequel, as well, but Stones of Light gives us more. The stake are higher, the magic is stronger and more sophisticated, the heroes are more powerful, the villains more evil. The tension-building elements are more intense in book 2, and with more suspense comes bigger and more satisfying payoffs. The book ends in a great spot, too, and left me very much anticipating what is going to happen in book 3. The narrative is heading in an epic direction, and I am really excited about it.

We become what the world believes we are.

I guess we will see about that in the third book, won’t we?

I do not want to end things without at least mentioning the world building. There was not a ton of it in Voice of War, and book 2 is no different. The reader does learn more about the world Argyle has created, and there is expansion on the setting. Just not a lot. I will say the pieces of the world the reader does get access to in detail are really important to the story. The minimalist approach to world building seems to be working well in this series, and I am good with that.

I did question some of the characters’ decision-making at points. As an example, there is a scene where someone is given the choice to jump down a hole to, in effect, commit suicide. The character decides not to do this but try to fight their way out of the predicament. A few pages later this same character decides jumping down the previously-mentioned hole is their best chance for survival. I think this points to some inconsistent decision-making on the part of the characters at points. At the same time, it is easy to criticize someone else’s choices when their life is constantly on the line – so we can forgive them their transgressions, I am sure.

Zack Argyle continues to impress. Voice of War was a really good debut, and Stones of Light is even better. I am definitely looking forward to the third and final book in the Threadlight trilogy. This series continues to get my recommendation for fans of fantasy.

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