I received The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose as an e-galley from Netgalley and the publisher, Atria Books, in exchange for an honest review of this book.
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).
The Secret Language of Stones is the second book in the Daughters of La Lune series, but you can read it on its own without feeling like you don’t understand the book. I haven’t read the first book in the series, and I only felt like I could have used a little more background on the family magic a few times. It didn’t hurt that I hadn’t read it, but it would add some nice extra information to the way their magic works.
It flew by as I was reading it. I liked the ideas behind it, but this novel had so many subplots going on – Opaline’s powers, Jean Luc’s writing, dealing with the Orloff family problems, the romance, Russian politics, etc. I think you get the picture.With so much going on, there really wasn’t enough time to really settle in and figure out what the main plotline was until the end.
The subplots all wound up working together, but there was just so much going on that I kind of felt like there needed to be more development for each, which could have easily made this book significantly longer. It also would have made it much more impactful as a novel.
That was my largest issue with the novel. The next issue that I had was the “romance” of the novel. Opaline basically has sex with a ghost several times and it was super weird. Like, it made me not want to read the rest of the book it was so creepy. The ending of that also weirded me out, but I won’t say anything about it because it would involve major spoilers.
Overall, the writing was good, but I think that it could have been better. The sex really killed my enjoyment of this book, so I’m rating it three stars.