The Bone Maker: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Maybe there were no perfect choices for anyone to make, hero or villain. Maybe there was only doing the best you could with the time you had. That was an unsatisfying thought, but just because it was uncomfortable didn’t mean it wasn’t true.”

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth DurstTwenty-five years ago, the Heroes of Vos saved the world when they ended the Bone War by stopping Eklor and his monstrous bone constructs. Ballads are still sung about their now-mythic deeds. But the cost of victory was steep for the five heroes.

Stran, the team’s strong man is keen to leave his memories of the Bone War behind. He’s a farmer now with a young family–two things that need to be tended and leave little time to dwell on the horrors of battle.

Marso was the most proficient bone reader in all of Vos, able to read the bones and anticipate the enemy’s next move. But something changed after the Bone War. The bones still want to tell Marso something. But the truth the bones hold is so unthinkable, Marso would rather shatter his own fragile psyche than face it.

Zera barely survived the final battle. Jentt gave his own life to save her–a cost the bone wizard knows she can never repay. Instead she now focuses on honing her craft and building an empire selling her bone talismans to the elite from her tower in the city of Cerre.

Kreya, the leader and a bone maker like Eklor himself, dealt the killing blow–a victory that feels meaningless when her husband Jentt is lost to her. Unwilling to accept his death, unable to share her grieve, Kreya hides herself away searching through Eklor’s texts. The Bone War started because of Eklor’s quest to bring back the dead–forbidden magic requiring human bones and a terrible cost. But Kreya is willing to pay any cost if it will bring Jentt back.

When Kreya’s efforts to resurrect Jentt reveal that Eklor may not be as defeated as the world thought, the Heroes of Vos will have to reunite once more to fight impossible odds and face an unimaginable enemy in The Bone Maker (2021) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Bone Maker is a standalone adult fantasy. The novel is written in close third person following various characters (primarily Kreya) throughout the story.

Durst once again creates a carefully rendered world with a complex, if often macabre, magic system. Kreya and her five friends walk a fine line saddled with the legacy of their past deeds while acknowledging that their stories–and their work–is far from over when Eklor resurfaces. Heroes past their prime, who have already completed their great mission, are rarely seen in fantasy making The Bone Maker unique. This focus gives the story space to unpack the burdens of heroism and moving on after completing your supposedly greatest act.

Although much of the story focuses on Kreya and Jentt’s marriage–and the lengths Kreya is willing to go to bring Jentt back–friendships are the real heart of The Bone Maker as the Heroes of Vos find their way back to each other after years apart. The bond between Kreya and Zera is a particularly strong anchor in this character-driven adventure.

The Bone Maker is a story of fierce friendship, duty, and what it means when your story doesn’t end when you get to “the end.”

Possible Pairings: A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan, The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst on The Bone Maker

Sarah Beth Durst author photo2021 has been a great year to be a Sarah Beth Durst fan. Even and Odd, her new middle grade about sisters who share magic on alternating days, hit shelves in June.

On the adult side, The Bone Maker is Sarah’s newest novel for adult readers, which begins after “the end” when five heroes who thought they’d already saved the world in their youth have to do it again.

Sarah is one of my favorite authors and I’m so glad to have her back to discuss her latest.

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for The Bone Maker?

Sarah Beth Durst: One day, I jotted down on a Post-It: “Lots of pockets!” You see, my jeans have these really shallow pockets that aren’t even large enough to hold my cell phone, and I decided that, regardless of what kind of book I wrote next, my protagonist would have lots of pockets.

So I asked myself, “What would be in those pockets?”

And my brain answered,”Bones.”

I suppose that probably says a lot about my brain…

The book grew from that one thought into a standalone epic fantasy about second chances in a world steeped with bone magic. THE BONE MAKER takes place twenty-five years after a team of heroes defeated a great evil, losing one of their own in the process. They think their story is over, but it’s definitively not.

The pockets even ended up being a part of it! Here’s the opening sentence:

“Kreya always wore her coat with many pockets when she went out to steal bones.”

Miss Print: The magic system in this world is founded on bone magic which can include using bone talismans to enhance things like strength or stealth, creating said talismans, reading bones to divine the future, creating bone constructs, or–working with darker magic–bringing back the dead. Which kind of bone magic would you want to have? While we’re talking about bone constructs: did you have a favorite one to imagine for this book? Was it my own favorite, the rag dolls?

Sarah Beth Durst: I’d love to be a bone maker, like Kreya. She can animate the inanimate — and there are endless possibilities as to what you can do with that.

So happy you liked the rag dolls! They’re my favorite as well. They actually weren’t in the original outline — they crawled into the book as I was writing it, and I thought they were so very creepy that they had to stay.

Miss Print: The Bone Maker is written in close third person and follows several different character viewpoints. How did you decide which characters to showcase and when as the story progressed?

Sarah Beth Durst: With each scene, I’d ask myself who had the most at stake and who can best carry the story forward. And then I’d trust my instincts. A lot of writing comes down to trusting yourself and your own sense of story.

I’m very tempted to put the “BELIEVE” sign from Ted Lasso over my desk. Believing in yourself, your story, your characters, and your world… it’s key. That’s not to say that you need to be 100% confident while you’re writing, but it helps to remind yourself that you have — all of us have — been soaked in stories since the day we were born, and we all have developed a sense of what works and what doesn’t, as well as what we like and what we don’t. You need to trust that.

Miss Print: Did you have a favorite character to write or one who was more challenging? How would Kreya and her team be doing with the pandemic?

Sarah Beth Durst: I adored writing Zera (the bone wizard and Kreya’s former best friend). She’s so overdramatic and full of snark. I love writing snark!

Really, I am deeply suspicious of novels that don’t have a sense of humor. Humor is such a basic human coping mechanism.

As for how they’d do with the pandemic… I think they’d live together in Stran’s house. Kreya would end up creating a lot of rather unsettling-looking contraptions to help around the farm, and Zera would carve a lot of talismans out of chicken bones. Jentt would learn how to bake and would constantly need to fish stray bone fragments out of his sourdough starter.

All of them, though, would hate having an enemy that they can’t see and can’t fight and, despite swearing to leave the problem to others to fix, would end up doing whatever they could to help.

Miss Print: One of my favorite things about this book is that in addition to the focus on Kreya and Jentt’s marriage–both before and after Kreya’s resurrection attempts–readers get to see a lot of the teams’ friendships as they find their way back to each other. (One of my favorite quotes: “The laws of nature and decency say friends don’t give up on friends. No matter what tragedies happen. No matter how many years pass. People are meant to keep loving each other, even after death.”) Can you discuss what defines a solid friendship in one of your books? Do you have any favorites that you’ve read (or written yourself)?

Sarah Beth Durst: There are so many toxic relationships in both fictional worlds and the real world that I really wanted to write about healthy relationships — or at least relationships that grow to be healthy.  I love the trope of the found family and the concept that strength comes from shared compassion, not just shared trauma.

The characters in THE BONE MAKER are old friends who, for the most part, haven’t seen one another in twenty-five years.  They’ve got some serious history between them, and I loved exploring how their friendships were shattered and how they glue them back together, stronger than before.

Some of my favorite books have great found families in them, such as EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire, SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo, and THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA by TJ Klune.

Miss Print: Has your writing routine/process changed for this novel (or other projects) in light of the pandemic?

Sarah Beth Durst: My writing routine/process has intensified. Every time I look at the news… It’s just all so horrific. I’m not a doctor or a nurse or a scientist or a teacher — I can’t help that way, but what I can do is write stories that I hope will give people an escape from everything for at least a few hours. And so for the past year and a half, I’ve been writing as much as I can.

Miss Print: You always have something in the works, can you tell me anything about your next project? Or about your other 2021 release?

Sarah Beth Durst: My other 2021 release is a book for kids (ages 8-12) called EVEN AND ODD. It’s about two sisters who share magic on alternating days. When the border between the mundane world they live in and the magical world they were born in shuts abruptly, they embark on a quest to reunite their family — with the help of a unicorn named Jeremy! It’s out now from Clarion Books.

And my next book is also for kids and will be coming out in June 2022. It’s called THE SHELTERLINGS, and it’s about a squirrel named Holly who is a resident of the Shelter for Rejected Familiars. It has a lot of talking animals. I mean a LOT of talking animals. I can’t wait for people to read it!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also read my review of Race the Sands here on the blog.

Even and Odd: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Even and Odd by Sarah Beth DurstEven and Odd are sisters who share magic on alternating days. On her even days twelve-year-old Emma “Even” Berry tries to pack in as much magic use as she can while she prepares for her next exam from the Academy of Magic. With her level five exam looming, Even needs all the practice time she can get to make sure she stays on schedule with her plans to become a hero. As a hero Even will be able to accept quests and travel throughout the neighboring magical kingdom of Firoth helping people.

Eleven-year-old Olivia “Odd” Berry would be just as happy skipping her magic days altogether. Except for turning her sister into a skunk when she’s annoying, Odd rarely has control of her magic. Odd’s magic might improve with practice, but she’d much rather focus on spending time volunteering at the animal shelter in their sleepy town in Connecticut where the Berrys run a border shop helping visitors from Firoth navigate the mundane world.

When the hidden portal behind Fratelli’s Express Bagels suddenly closes, no one can access their magic. Worse, a lot of magical Firoth residents are stranded far from home and cut off from their families. Even is eagerto help investigate as hero practice and Odd is excited to get to know the unicorn Jeremy who also offers assistance if it means getting home before his parents ground him.

When they find themselves trapped on the wrong side of the border, both sisters will have to rely on all of their skills–magical and otherwise–to figure out who is stealing the border magic and how to fix it in Even and Odd (2021) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

Even and Odd is filled with humor and timely commentary on the harms of closed borders. Narrated in close third person following Even, the story explores magic from both sides as Even embraces all things magical and Odd is readier to find magic in the mundane world (like new kittens!).

With help from Jeremy, a unicorn with a surprising fondness for soda, Even and Odd explore their birthland Firoth for the first time while trying to fix the border. The magic system here is logical and has several parallels to climate change as magical energy is treated as a limited resource–a fact that leads to dangerous consequences for the border and all of Firoth.

Whimsical magical elements and humor help temper these weightier topics as the sisters realize that sometimes being a hero has a lot less to do with proper training and a lot more to do with offering to help. Even and Odd is a fast-paced, magical adventure perfect for readers who like their fantasy with a bit of humor and a lot of sisterhood.

Possible Pairings: The Dragon With a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis, The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer, Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connelly, Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger, The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst on Race the Sands

Sarah Beth Durst author photoAny time Sarah Beth Durst has a new book coming  out, I know I should be excited. She is one of the most prolific and versatile authors writing fantasy right now and, get excited, I think her newest standalone for adults might be her best book yet.

I’m excited to have Sarah back today answering some questions about her monster racing adventure Race the Sands.

Miss Print: What was the inspiration for Race the Sands?

Sarah Beth Durst: When it was time to start thinking about my next book, I sat down at my desk, typed the words “Things I Think Are Awesome,” and started making a list of everything from pizza to armadillos to fire-breathing unicorns.  A page or two into that list, I jotted down two words:

Monster racing.

And a little voice inside me said, “YES.  I MUST WRITE THAT.”

So that’s where this book began, with two words.  Everything in sun-drenched Becar grew out of that one core idea: deadly races on the backs of irredeemable monsters called kehoks, who bear the reborn souls of their world’s most depraved humans.

Miss Print: Race the Sands is set in a world where what you do in this life determines what (or whom) you are reborn as in your next life. Augur Yorbel even reads a few characters’ auras during the story to see how they will be reborn. What creature would you want to return as?

Sarah Beth Durst: A dragon!

Or maybe that’s a bit impractical.

How about a cat?  A well-fed housecat whose humans know better than to move once I decide to nap on them.  Like my cat Gwen.  She’s sitting on me as I write this.  In fact, I write most of my books with her on top of me.  Sometimes it makes it tricky to see the keyboard.

Miss Print: On the other end of the reincarnation spectrum we have the kehoks–souls reborn as monstrous creatures because they have done something so heinous there is no hope of redemption (unless they win the Becaran races). The kehoks come in all shapes and sizes including, notably, the black lion Tamra and Raia work with. What kind of kehok would you want to be (assuming the whole doing something evil to be reborn as one wasn’t on the table)?

Sarah Beth Durst: I’d like to be reborn as something like my black metal lion.  Fast and fierce.  Preferably without any slime or tentacles.

Miss Print: One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the way you utilize the ensemble cast by following a few different characters as the story unfolds. Did you always know the story would have this narrative structure? How did you decide which characters to showcase?

Sarah Beth Durst: I did plan from the beginning to show the story through multiple viewpoints, but I didn’t fully sketch out exactly whose eyes I’d use for which piece of the story.  I tried to trust my instincts.

A lot of writing is trusting your instincts.  We’ve all absorbed so many stories that we’ve internalized the rhythm of how a tale unfolds — the trick is to trust that sense of rhythm.

Miss Print: Working off the last question: Did you have a favorite character to write or one who was more challenging? And since this book came out during quarantine in April: How would everyone be fairing in quarantine? Who would you want to have quarantined with you?

Sarah Beth Durst: I loved writing Tamra!  She’s a former champion rider who now works as a professional trainer in the sport of monster racing.  She’s also a single mother who would do anything for her daughter, even sacrifice her own soul.  She’s fierce, driven, and unstoppable, and I loved spending time with her.

She’s named after Tamora Pierce, a fantastic writer and fantastic person.  I first discovered Tammy’s books when I was ten years old, the same year that I decided I wanted to be a writer.  I remember reading ALANNA, her first Tortall book about a girl who wants to become a knight, and thinking to myself, “If Alanna can become a knight, I can become a writer.”

As far as how my characters would fair in quarantine…  I think Tamra would take Raia and Shalla and ride on the back of a kehok out into the desert, away from the cities.  And Dar would be doing his best to take care of his people.  He’d be worried, but he’d do what’s right to protect as many as possible.

And the character I’d want with me…  There’s one brief mention in the book of a woman who bakes the best pastries in all Becar… I’d want those pastries with me.

Miss Print: You always have a few books in the works, can you tell me anything about your next project?

Sarah Beth Durst: Yes!  My next book will be a standalone epic fantasy called THE BONE MAKER, coming in March 2021 from Harper Voyager.  It’s about second chances — and bone magic.  It’s set twenty-five years after the heroes saved the world.  Now they’re called to save the world again, but they’re not the same as they once were.

My next novel for kids is called EVEN AND ODD and will be out from HMH / Clarion Books in June 2021.  It’s about two sisters who have magic on alternating days — Even has magic on even days, and Odd has magic on odd days — and what happens when the portal that separates our world from the magic world closes.

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also read my review of Race the Sands here on the blog.

Race the Sands: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Life isn’t just about who you were—it’s about who you choose to be.”

Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst“Call it what it is: monster racing. Forget that and you die.”

Tamra tells every one of her students that. She cautions them, every time, to stay focused on the race, the moment, and never forget that they are riding on the back of a monster. Not every rider remembers those lessons in the heat of the races.

The Becaran races are a chance for wealth and glory for the riders. The racers, the kehoks, get something else: a chance to be reborn as something less monstrous–a chance to try to redeem their damaged souls.

Tamra used to be a winner, a champion. Now she is a damaged trainer unsure how to overcome a bad reputation and mentor another champion. She only knows winning this season is her last chance to keep her daughter.

Raia is an untested rider. She has never raced, never even seen a kehok up close. Now she has to convince a trainer to take her on if she wants a chance to use the races to win her freedom and escape her domineering parents and fiance.

Together with a strange new kehok, Tamra and Raia have the potential to change the races and all of Becar forever. But only if they stay focused and remember: Only the race. Only the moment. Only the finish line in Race the Sands (2020) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

Durst’s latest standalone fantasy introduces readers to the beautiful and often brutal world of Becar–a desert country where every action can stain or elevate your soul with immediate consequences for your next incarnation. This raises, for all of the characters, thoughtful questions of how to live a moral life while also doing what needs to be done throughout the novel.

In a kingdom in flux waiting for the new emperor to be crowned, Tamra and Raia face their own mounting stakes as both women are forced to take chances on themselves and each other to try and win.

The story unfolds with a close third person narration following Tamra, Raia, and other key players in the story to create a strong ensemble cast notably including Tamra’s daughter, Yorbel–an augur with his own interest in kehoks, and Tamra’s patron Lady Evara who is the obvious successor to my favorite inscrutable fashion plate Effie Trinket.

Race the Sands is a fantasy that explores many things but at its core this is a story of mindfulness and focus as both Tamra and Raia answer what they truly want to accomplish and how far they are willing to go for those goals. The story also considers what makes a family–found or otherwise–as well as what happens when the people trusted to maintain order in society betray that trust.

Race the Sands is a fast-paced story filled with intrigue, action, and, of course, competition. A twisty, perfectly paced adventure ideal for readers who want their high fantasy with a healthy dose of mystery.

You can also check out my exclusive interview with Sarah!

Possible Pairings: The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad, Hunted By the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena, The Hunter Games by Suzanne Collins, Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee, The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Fire & Heist: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth DurstFor the Hawkins family, successfully pulling off your first heist is a major accomplishment. It’s an introduction into society, a rite of passage, and of course the best way for a were-dragon to start building their first hoard of gold.

The technical term is actually wyvern, but Sky has always thought calling herself and her family were-dragons really gets to the point even if no wyvern has been able to take on their true dragon form since they lost their connection with Home generations ago.

With Sky’s first heist coming up fast, Sky has to start picking her crew and figure out how to get over her ex-boyfriend Ryan once and for all. But with her mother missing and an ancient jewel in the mix that could change everything for the wyvern community, Sky’s first heist is going to be anything but routine in Fire & Heist (2018) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

This standalone fantasy is part adventure and part heist as Sky tries to uncover the truth about her mother’s work and the jewel she was tracking before her disappearance. High stakes heist scenes contrast well with high fantasy elements as Sky learns more about her dragon past.

Snark, light romance, and real mystery make Fire & Heist a page-turning adventure with distinct characters in a truly unique world. Recommended for readers looking for a new spin on both dragons and heist tropes.

Possible Pairings: Heist Society by Ally Carter, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston, The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Author Interview: Sarah Beth Durst on The Queen of Sorrow

Sarah Beth Durst author photoSarah Beth Durst is one of my favorite authors and one of the busiest. Last year she published her latest standalone middle grade The Stone Girl’s Story and Fire and Heist a new standalone YA featuring were-dragons. She also wrapped up her first trilogy written for adults with The Queen of Sorrow. Today Sarah is to talk with me a bit more about the series.

Miss Print (MP): The Queen of Sorrow concludes the arc of your Queens of Renthia trilogy. Did the framework for this story and its focus shift between when you first started drafting the series and when you began writing this installment?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): There’s an episode of the Flash where Captain Cold explains the Four Rules of Planning: “Make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, throw away the plan.”  And that describes my writing process.

Before I began writing The Queens of Renthia trilogy, I planned out all three novels.  But then when I sank into the actual stories…

You have to trust your instincts when you write.  Trust your characters.  Trust your story.  In some cases, this takes you down a path that follows a nice, neat outline, but sometimes the best discoveries happen when you veer off that path.  So I try to allow myself the flexibility to veer.

For example, the character of Garnah, the sociopathic poison-maker, didn’t exist when I first outlined the trilogy.  She popped up while I was writing, and I fell so in love with her that she became an important character.

MP: The Queen of Sorrow shows readers several new parts of Renthia including quick snapshots of the other queens in neighboring kingdoms. How did you decide what scenes to use to show readers these new areas? Which are you most excited for readers to discover?

SBD: Renthia is a world filled with bloodthirsty nature spirits who want to kill all humans.  (Not exactly a very safe tourist destination.)  It’s also a world of extreme beauty, thanks to those out-of-control spirits: towering Lothlorien-like trees, mountains that pierce the sky, endless glaciers…  In THE QUEEN OF SORROW, we’re mostly in the forests of Aratay and the mountains of Semo.  But I also had the chance to show glimpses of the other countries.  They’re brief scenes, but I spent a ton of time daydreaming about what those other places were like, who their queens were, and how they survived.

In particular, I can’t wait for readers to see Belene, a string of islands built on the bones of long-dead leviathans.  It’s the setting for my next book, THE DEEPEST BLUE, a standalone epic fantasy set in the world of Renthia.

MP: For the past few years you have had several fantastic books out each year (which I love because it’s more books for me to recommend to my readers!) across a variety of ages and fantasy sub-genres. How do you balance working on two projects so close together? What does a typical writing day look like for you?

SBD: I tend to sink into a world when I write, so I prefer to work on one project at a time.  Typically, I’ll spend a couple months working on my next book for adults, hand it off to my editor, and then transition to working on my next book for kids, hand it off to that editor, and so on.

On days where I have to think about two worlds at once, I eat a lot of chocolate.

I do try to write every day.  I know this doesn’t work for every writer, but for me, it helps maintain momentum.  And quite simply, it makes me happy!

Depending on what stage of writing/revision I’m at, I often set daily goals (a scene, a chapter, etc.), but I don’t have set hours that I write– I just try to write as much as possible between all the little things in life that need taking care of.

MP: Working from the last question, this year you’ll be publishing The Deepest Blue–another adult fantasy novel set in Renthia, this time in the island kingdom of Baleen. When did you realize that you had more stories to tell in Renthia? How will this story be similar to (or defer from) your other books set in this world?

SBD: While I was writing book one of The Queens of Renthia, THE QUEEN OF BLOOD, I sketched out a map: trees, mountains, fields, glaciers, a few islands to the south… and I immediately started wondering about them.  So when the chance came along to write a brand-new story set in another part of Renthia, I jumped on it.

THE DEEPEST BLUE is about Mayara, one of Belene’s fearless oyster divers, who is about to marry the love of her life when an unnatural storm hits her island.  To save her family, Mayara reveals that she has the power to control spirits — and when the storm ends, the queen’s soldiers come for her and send her, along with other women of power, to an island filled with bloodthirsty spirits.  Whoever survives will be named heirs to the queen.

So, new story, new characters, new land.  And a lot of sea monsters!

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next projects? What can readers look forward to from you in 2019?

SBD: THE DEEPEST BLUE comes out from Harper Voyager on March 19th.  And my next book for kids, SPARK, comes out from Clarion Books / HMH on May 14th.  It’s about a girl and her storm beast (a.k.a. a lightning dragon) and how even the quietest voice can change the world.  I’m ridiculously excited about both books and can’t wait for readers to meet Mayara (my oyster diver) and Mina (my storm guardian)!

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also read my review of The Queen of Sorrow here on the blog.

The Queen of Sorrow: A Review

*The Queen of Sorrow is the final book in Durst’s Queens of Renthia trilogy. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning with The Queen of Blood and The Reluctant Queen*

cover art for The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth DurstDaleina has always wanted to protect her homeland Aratay and the people who call the forests home even when it leaves her as the unlikely queen of the kingdom.

Naelin never wanted to be a queen despite her enormous power but willingly takes up the mantle when it means she’s be able to keep her children safe.

Now Aratay and its vicious spirits are torn between two queens with vastly different priorities.

Merecot has always known she was destined to be queen. When her candidacy as an Heir of Aratay is blocked she schemes to become queen of the mountainous kingdom of Semo instead. But Semo has too little land for its many spirits–something even a queen of Merecot’s caliber can’t control forever.

When Naelin’s children are kidnapped she knows that Merecot is to blame and is willing to go to any lengths to retrieve her children even if it means defying her co-queen Daleina and plunging both kingdoms into a costly war.

As Naelin searches for her children, Daleina struggles to hold the kingdom together, and Merecot draws all three queens toward a confrontation that could save both kingdoms. Or destroy them in The Queen of Sorrow (2018) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Queen of Sorrow is the final book in Durst’s Queens of Renthia trilogy. If you’re new to the series, start at the beginning with The Queen of Blood and The Reluctant Queen.

The Queen of Sorrow widely expands the world of Renthia as readers learn more about Merecot and Semo as well as the other neighboring kingdoms. This story shifts close third person perspective between characters across Renthia as they are drawn into a conflict that will forever change their world.

Durst expertly manages a large cast, numerous plot threads, and her complex world building to close out this high fantasy trilogy. With action, intrigue, and even some romance The Queen of Sorrow is the perfect conclusion to a powerful, must-read series that strikes the perfect balance between closure and hints of more to come. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, Roar by Cora Carmack, All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman, A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, The Shadow Queen by C. J. Redwine

Be sure to check out my interview with Sarah about this book!

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Stone Girl’s Story: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Stone Girl's Story by Sarah Beth DurstMayka and her stone family were brought to life by the markings etched into their bodies–symbols that represent who they are and the stories of their live. Mayka’s father was a talented stonemason. He created fish that could swim, rabbits, birds, and even a turtle before he used everything he had learned to create Mayka a girl who lives and thinks even if she does not need to breath or eat the way humans do.

But stone erodes over time and Mayka’s father is no longer alive to tend to his stone creations. Without a stonemason to maintain them, the stone creature’s markings are fading. Unless a stonemason can recarve their markings Mayka and her stone family will cease to live–becoming nothing more than still statues.

Finding a stonemason won’t be easy. It will force Mayka to leave the only home she has ever known high up on her family’s mountain. Off the mountain Mayka discovers that there is more to the magic that brings her to life than Father ever let on. When her search for a stonemason reveals a threat to all stone creatures, Mayka may not have any time left to wait for a stonemason to save her in The Stone Girl’s Story (2018) by Sarah Beth Durst.

Find it on Bookshop.

Durst’s latest standalone middle grade fantasy is an evocative adventure where, with the right markings, stone can be brought to life. Durst once again brings her imaginative vision to life in a novel whose heroine is as surprising as her world.

Mayka’s stone family consists of herself and a variety of talking animals eager to help in the search for a new stonemason. The high stakes of this mission are offset with the wonder and enthusiasm with which Mayka explores new lands and makes some surprising friends.

The Stone Girl’s Story is an engrossing adventure and a thoughtful commentary on agency as Mayka realizes that the best way to save herself and her friends might be to do it herself. A delightful addition to the author’s extensive body of work.

Possible Pairings: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, Princeless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin

Be sure to check out my interview with Sarah about this book!

Author Interview (#11): Sarah Beth Durst on The Stone Girl’s Story

Sarah Beth Durst author photoSarah Beth Durst, one of my favorite authors, is back today to talk about her latest middle grade novel The Stone Girl’s Story which follows Mayka, a living girl made of stone, as she ventures far from home to find a way to help herself and her friends.

Miss Print (MP): What was the inspiration for The Stone Girl’s Story?

Sarah Beth Durst (SBD): I’m a terrible gardener.  Zero green thumb.  Plants see me coming, and they wither in self-defense, anticipating a horrible death from either too much or too little watering.  But I try.  And I’m always optimistic that next year, I’ll remember to weed/water/whatever often enough to have a lovely flower bed.

One spring, after hearing me talk all winter about flowers, my husband bought me a little stone rabbit for my garden, and I nestled it in between the daffodils.  But by the end of the summer, it was so buried in weeds that I couldn’t find it.  So I joked that it had hopped away to join its other stone friends…

That stone bunny became the inspiration for THE STONE GIRL’S STORY (and you’ll see him hopping around the first chapter as one of Mayka’s friends!).

Mayka is a girl made of living stone.  Forever twelve years old, she has outlasted the father who carved her and engraved her body with the stories that gave her life. But now the magical marks that animate her and her stone friends are fading, and she must leave her home for the first time to find help if she wants her story — and those of her friends — to continue.

At its heart, this is a story about stories — what stories shape who you are, who chooses the stories that define you, who tells the story of your life.

MP: Stone creatures in Mayka’s world are brought to life by markings carved into their bodies that describe various attributes and parts of their lives. If you were a stone creature, what are some markings you would want to include in your story?

SBD: I would want my markings to say how much I love stories — really, I think they’re as essential to life as air, water, and food — and how much I love to tell stories.  And I would want my markings to say how much I love my family.  Those are the two things that are most important to me: writing and my family.

Might also want to add a marking saying how fond I am of chocolate.

MP: Mayka leaves her home to find a new stonemason and gets to see the world beyond her mountain home for the first time. Reading this story I was struck by how vivid the locations and landscapes are as Mayka discovers them. Did any real locations inspire the places that Mayka visits?

SBD: Not intentionally, but the world does seep into you and then come out in your writing.  Things you think are beautiful, things you think are important, things that stick in your memory…  All of those things fertilize the soil of your imagination.

Mayka’s world is born of my imagination, but it’s shaped by my love of this world.

MP: Which scene are you especially excited for readers to get to in The Stone Girl’s Story?

SBD: One of the best things about being a writer is being able to invite people into your worlds, your stories, and your imagination.  I can’t wait for readers to meet Mayka and her friends!  I am especially excited for readers to meet Si-Si, a little stone dragon that Mayka encounters on her quest.

I think all stories need at least one talking dragon.  :)

MP: This is a busy year for you with three novels coming out. Last year was equally jam-packed with your YA novel Drink, Slay, Love’s movie adaptation coming out and the release of your first picture book Roar and Sparkles Go to School. (I love that you literally write for all ages now!) With so many projects going on at once how do you balance everything? What does a typical writing day look like for you?

SBD: I write every day.  I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but I find it helpful for keeping up the momentum of the story.  I don’t have a set time or consistent number of hours that I write each day — basically any time I have two hands free and am near my computer, I’m writing.

I typically work on one project at a time.  It takes me a couple days to switch between voices, styles, and worlds, so I prefer to work on one book for a few weeks/months (depending on where it is in the process) and then make the transition to another.

I also always like to know what I’m going to be writing next and will often start a new book on the same day that I finish the prior book.  I don’t like saying goodbye to characters that I’ve grown to love, so it helps if I can immediately say hello to new ones!

MP: Can you tell us anything about your next projects?

SBD: Yes!  My next book for adults comes out on May 15th: THE QUEEN OF SORROW, Book Three of The Queens of Renthia.  It’s the final book in my epic fantasy series about bloodthirsty spirits and the queens who can control them.  Very excited for readers to see how it all ends!

In December, my next YA book, FIRE AND HEIST, comes out.  It’s essentially Ocean’s Eleven with were-dragons.  I just posted the gorgeous new cover over on my website (www.sarahbethdurst.com/FireandHeist.htm).

And I’m currently in the middle of revising next year’s MG book (SPARK, about a girl and her lightning dragon) and adult book (THE DEEPEST BLUE, a standalone Renthia novel with a lot of sea monsters).

Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions!

For more information about Sarah and her books you can also visit her website.

You can also check out our previous interviews discussing Sarah’s other novels here on the blog.

If you want to know more about The Stone Girl’s Story be sure to check out my  review.