Mini Review: Smoke and Stone: City of Sacrifice, Book 1 (audiobook)                        Author Michael R. Fletcher Narrated by Rosa B. Watkinson

Self Published Audiobook/Print.      Audiobook released on 12/20/2019

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!!

I was not given this book in exchange for a review.

Smoke and Stone: City of Sacrifice, Book 1