Lodestone-peddler Melaine is desperate to stop hustling her raw magic for a tuppence. Her rare gift of infusing her magic into a lodestone to sell for another’s use and never keeping any for herself is nothing but a degrading path to an early grave.
Yearning for a better life, Melaine turns to her unconventional childhood idol, the powerful but sinister Overlord, sorcerer-ruler of the Centara. When she achieves an audience and arrives at his reclusive retreat of ancient Highstrong Keep, she finds that the compelling, handsome man who conquered a kingdom by the age of twenty is now a weak, shadowed husk, and he needs her lodestones to give him strength. In exchange, he will take her on as his apprentice.
Trapped in Highstrong with a half-crazed prisoner, a strict servant, and the Overlord, Melaine learns that they may all be prey to far more malevolent forces than the Overlord’s black-magic experiments. Faced with menacing apparitions, ancient curses, and an even greater horror that could threaten the entire kingdom if unleashed, Melaine’s penchant for survival is contested by her growing feelings for the Overlord and her path toward finding a deeper meaning to life than the pure power she once craved.
Well my goodness this book took me completely by surprise and I think this is because the cover didn’t quite depict what I was expecting within. Anticipating a youngish YA/middle grade novel I was bowled over to come up against a fabulously dark and gritty fantasy with some amazing and complex world building and a unique and fascinating magic system. It pulled me in from the opening chapters with the detailed and wonderfully grim portrayal of the poorest part of the kingdom called Stakeside. The author vividly sets the scene and the atmosphere created here is brilliant, almost Dickensian in nature, with descriptions of hideous characters, the squalid living conditions and constantly being on the lookout for cutthroats and pickpockets. This is a powerful and immersive book which is compelling from start to the finish. I can see hints of the Beauty in the Beast in there as well as the usual dark fantasy elements woven with a little mystery and horror.
It is populated with some complex characters. Our main protagonist, Melaine, is a strong and streetwise young woman with drive and ambition. She is a Lodestone pedlar living in Stakeside who dreams of working her way up from the dregs of society and leaving Stakeside altogether. Melaine has been captivated with the Overlord since childhood and by no mean feat manages to orchestrate a meeting with him in the hope of becoming one of his Followers. I loved the dynamics and interactions between these two characters, she starts off as his apprentice and then slowly over time their feelings for each other begin to grow. Romantically nothing happens beyond a kiss but there is clearly an subtle attraction between this unlikely couple. The Overlord is a wonderful dark, sinister and somewhat tormented character but I empathised with him immediately and couldn’t help but love him. His health is failing, and he uses Melaine’s Lodestones to gain some vigour and energy, but we are kept guessing as to why he’s ill until later on in the story
Lodestone is an exciting and action-packed adventure which is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The author delves quite deeply into the history of the world and the descriptions of the world, magic system and characters are phenomenal. An excellent debut novel and I will definitely be looking out for more of this author’s work.
Publisher: GenZ Publishing
Publication Date (UK):
Page Count: 349
Genre: Dark Fantasy/YA Fantasy
Thank you to Katherine Forrester and publisher for the gifted eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Please do not hesitate to comment below if you liked my review or have any comments about this book 😊