Title: Lady of Stone
Author: Barbara Ann Wright
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publication Date: Sept. 15 2020
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Shelves: Female-author, female-fronted
A prequel to her Pyradisté Adventures, Lady of Stone is a perfect introduction to Barbara Ann Wright’s world of fantasy and magic. Even though it’s been ages since I read The Pyramid Waltz, and I’ve yet to catch up with the other 3 books in the series, I had no trouble settling in and familiarizing myself with the world and its magic.
The first thing that struck me about this is just how quickly Wright defines the classes of her world, and just how powerfully she outlines the prejudices between them. As a result, we have no trouble understanding Lady Sylph’s horror at being caught with magic, or her awkwardness in being forced to accept the secret tutoring of a pyradisté peasant. Her entire world has been flipped upside down, her entire future put into question, and compounding matters is her attraction to Thana, something upon which it would be entirely improper to act. Thana shares that same problem of impossible attraction, chafing against that class barrier, but she has the added awkwardness of envying Lady Sylph the effortless strength of her magic – something the noblewoman wants only to hide and suppress.
This a story I would describe as a plot-driven fantasy first (with violent scenes of explosive action) and a character-driven romance second (with passionate scenes of frustrated longing), but that mix does shift nicely in the second half. There’s a fascinating mystery regarding magic going awry, one that’s compounded by acts of treason, and being thrown into those conflicts, both magic and mundane, is what slowly brings Lady Sylph and Thana together. Two strong, independent women with real depth, there’s no question they are the primary appeal here. As much as they frustrated me at times, had me cursing at them for not telling each other what they were thinking or how they were feeling, I understood them . . . I understood their distance . . . and, because of that, I appreciated their gradual bridging of that powerful divide.
Interestingly, as much as this world is divided along lines of class and magic, it’s wonderfully open and inclusive of gender and sexuality, complete with a very open love affair between Queen Earnhilt and Lady Lucia that delivers some early moments of ribald humor. In restricting the attraction between Lady Sylph and Thana to something forbidden solely because of class, not because of gender, Wright allows the story and the romance to progress without any sort of secret, closeted angst. As for being the Lady of Stone, that’s both a reference to Lady Sylph’s personality (which does soften and crack) and her magical affinity (which involves very different breaking down), two aspects that play off one another nicely.
Yet another stellar read from Barbara Ann Wright, Lady of Stone is a wonderful blend of magical fantasy and lesbian romance that had me eager to find out how it all ends, and yet reluctant to have it end.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.