Book Review: The Stone Eater by Carol Beth Anderson
After following these characters through two incredible novels in this YA post-apocalyptic fantasy series, I was eager to see how everything would turn out in this final book. As always, Carol Beth Anderson delivers an incredible story full of complex characters and some fantastic emotional payoff for everything that's been building up so far. The magic system remains one of the highlights of the story, but the characters are truly what pull you in and keep you invested from start to finish.
One of the things I was most looking forward to after finishing book 2 was seeing how certain relationship dynamics between characters might play out, and we definitely got that in The Stone Eater. Although I was super heartbroken about some of the choices that were made with those relationships at first, by the end, Anderson brought everything together in a way that felt satisfying and very much earned. The romantic subplots in these books have always been very nuanced, full of emotional highs and lows that consistently pull at my heartstrings, and that's more true than ever in this book. The last quarter or so of the book had me choking up because of the expert care Anderson puts into writing those relationships and pushing her characters to grow and change through them.
The Stone Eater also gives us a closer look at the man himself, King Ulmin, who has been a formidable opponent for our heroes over the course of the series—in no small part due to the fact that he's also our heroine's father. I loved the little snippets of letters we got at the start of each chapter that provide a glimpse into what Nora's parents' early relationship was like and the man King Ulmin used to be. We also get several chapters from his point of view, allowing us to see how much he's changed and some of the driving motives behind his actions. This is never used as a way to excuse or justify his actions, but rather to help us understand how a great man could fall so far. It humanizes him in a way we don't often see with powerful antagonists in YA fantasy and I really appreciated the care Anderson took with his chapters and his storyline. It was fascinating and heartbreaking and really added to the emotional stakes of the main conflict.
Anderson is clearly a fantastic storyteller and with this series has become one of my favorite indie authors. I listened to this and the previous book on audiobook, narrated by the author herself, and the performance was excellent. If you're an audiobook reader, that version is worth checking out. I'm sad to say goodbye to these characters but I appreciated the journey every step of the way, and I can't want to see what Anderson writes next. If you haven't already read this series and you enjoy YA fantasy, you definitely need to give it a read.