Author: M. J. Rose
Publisher: Atria Books
Length: 320 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley
As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.
Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.
So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.
But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.
So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).
Protagonist: Opaline has a special talent. She can use stones and personal items to deliver a final message from beyond the grave, usually to a grieving widow, mother, sister, or child. She's never done more than deliver a message before, until one day while working on a charm for a new client, the client's son begins to speak to her directly. Is she really hearing the voice of this fallen soldier or has her "gift" driven her mad? Unlike her mother it was much easier for me to get attached to Opaline, since also unlike her mother her story doesn't have to do with her personality being influenced by a spirit, or at least not to the same scale. Opaline does have her mother's trait for skepticism even when presented with a crap ton of proof, though comes to accept things a bit faster. I really liked Opaline, she's a strong and compelling character. She has a deep sense of morality and does whatever she believes is right.
Romance: To say this romance is complicated is a HUGE understatement, I mean falling in love with the spirit of a fallen soldier just screams doomed relationship. At first I wasn't too into the romance, it felt like it started too quickly, but soon enough I forgave that a really started to root for this couple headed for nothing but sorrow, but there was a silver lining to their romance. It's related to that whole proverb of; "It's better to have loved and lost..." I'm really trying to find other words to say to explain this romance, it's intense, fast paced, gentle, furtive, and at the end of the day these characters' feelings for each other go beyond just the emotional and physical.
World Building: While I liked the feel of Paris in the first novel, in this one it has much more of a historic backdrop, World War I, known as the Great War here, is still raging and because of that many things have changed since the first book, both culturally and economically. Before I go too much into this, while this book can be read on it's own as a stand alone companion, if you have read the first book there are some answers to the lingering questions and that almost unfulfilling ending, though they are still left kind of vague, you get a better understanding of what exactly happened. Now, this book not only has a deep presence with WWI in Paris, but since Opaline's employers are Russian expatriates there is a lot to do with the death of Nicholas Romanov and the disappearance and possible death of his wife and children. The pacing for this book is kind of weird since for most of the book there's only been mention of these expatriates and their love for the Romanovs and Tsarist Russia, it isn't until towards the end that that particular world-building element is explored further, with exciting results.
Predictability: Looking over this book I have to say that for the most part it's pretty predictable. Once again the author left some things that under more YA circumstances would be foreshadowing and let them drop, though they felt far less important or were much easier to piece together than in the first book. There was one twist though, in the book, that was pretty huge, something I didn't really see coming, no real foreshadowing for it, though it made much more sense when revealed, and when it was it was quite shocking in the best possible way.
Ending: Going into the ending of this book I expected it to be like the first book and have a sort of rushed ending, but while the ending was fast paced it didn't end with the urgency that the first one did. The ending to this book, or the final climax was very well executed full of intensity as everything comes to a head and then cools down. The cool down period for this book was not only longer than book one but made much more sense and ends without any lingering questions on my mind. The ending of the romance itself is a very emotional one, if you haven't' already surmised. I wasn't expecting it to be as emotional as it was and I may have shed a tear or two but I'm not confirming anything.
Other than a few weird pacing issues I had, which weren't all that annoying, I could find no fault in this book. It was exciting, entertaining, and full of mystery, suspense, and thrill, here's hoping the author has at least one more La Lune book in her!
About the Author:
New York Times Bestseller, M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother's favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice... books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
Rose's work has appeared in many magazines including Oprah Magazine and she has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, WSJ, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. Rose graduated from Syracuse University, spent the '80s in advertising, has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and since 2005 has run the first marketing company for authors - Authorbuzz.com
The television series PAST LIFE, was based on Rose's novels in the Reincarnationist series. She is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers and currently serves, with Lee Child, as the organization's co-president.
Rose lives in CT with her husband the musician and composer, Doug Scofield, and their very spoiled and often photographed dog, Winka.
Daughter of La Lune Pendant
We're celebrating the release of THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STONES by giving away a beautiful Daughter of La Lune pendant. Designed by Cadsawan Jewelry, the silver pendant contains a labradorite, a magical stone excellent for awakening one's own awareness of inner spirit, intuition, and psychic abilities.
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