Review of The Stonemason’s Curse: Talisman of Hope Book 1 – Janet Bradley

Posted: September 8, 2018 in fantasy, Review

On an ordinary morning in her village, Talia Ridgetree has no idea the adventure she is going to be captured on and taken for, nor does she have any inkling to the looming mystery of her past. With the cast of a powerful spell from the evil forces of the Blood Wizard, Talia must embark on a journey with an assorted cast of companions, from the village she calls home, to an elven forest. In the company of a pompous wizard, a strong woodsman, an herbal master, and a royal elven wizard, Talia finds herself in strange lands among strange magic.

As the stonebearer of the Talisman of Hope, Talia must find her inner strength and courage to tolerate the magic and mysticism around her. Questions assail her of who she calls family, who she can trust, and what she can ultimately believe. In the face of pending war and tragedy, Talia struggles to be true to her heart and soul as she treks to faraway lands in search of answers, all the meanwhile fending off the wickedness of the Blood Wizard, battling unimaginable beasts, overcoming biases, and freeing captured creatures.

The Stonemason’s Curse: Talisman of Hope Book One

Janet Bradley

Published by Austin Macauley Publishers

Supplied by Austin Macauley

Reviewed by Jacqui Smith

I did try. I got about half-way through this work before I simply gave up. I found myself looking wistfully at the to-be-read pile, and then at this book with distaste… altogether too often. So, the challenge for me as a reviewer is to figure out just what was so very wrong with it. And it seems to me that there are four main issues.

First, world design. This is a very Tolkien-esque high fantasy, with elves, little people, and so on. But where was the map? There has to be a map. It also felt very derivative. Changing a few race names isn’t enough to create an original and vibrant world. That said, there were some interestingly dangerous monsters… the Stonemason and the poisonous Sillatour in particular.

Second, the plot, such as it was. It was very linear, essentially a chase sequence. But all the locations seemed oddly close together. I really would have liked to have seen a map – it’s a staple of the genre, for good reason. It also felt odd that the principle MacGuffin, the talisman, was introduced as simply sitting on a shelf in the wizard Brymble’s house, among a row of orbs (who knows what happened to the rest of them).

Third, there are the characters, especially the elven prince Ivus. I don’t mind a bit of romance in my fantasy, but this character is an arrogant lecher chasing every skirt he sees, including one of the party members… and he’s meant to be a good guy! Many of the party were undeveloped, and lacking in personality. Even Talia, the lead character, seems more of a petulant teen than anything else. Oh, and more female characters in the party would have helped the dynamic work a whole lot better.

Fourth, there’s the actual writing. I can forgive a lot if a book reads well, but this didn’t. On a very basic level there were the missing commas, the poor punctuation of speech, and even the occasional spelling mistake. More importantly the choice of words was often stilted, and it lacked the rhythm and flow that characterises good prose.

There is quite possibly a decent fantasy tale buried in this novel somewhere, but it’s struggling to get out. A good solid rewrite, losing about half the verbiage would help; as would a hard editing to find and fix all the errors. I can’t really recommend the work, but you never know, it might be just me.

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