Okay, so a bit of a belated review since I finished the book like a week ago, but I get around to writing it at the time. A little warning: I will refer to things that happened in the first book, including plot points, because if you're wondering if you should read this book you should definately read 'Thinblade' first and not gripe at me about plot points from that. I will hide plot points from this book behind spoiler text though so don't worry.
Okay, so... 'Sovereign Stone' is the second in Wells' Seven Isles series, and follows pretty much immediately on from 'Thinblade' - with Alexander and his group inside the Blackstone Keep after Alexander retrieved the Thinblade from the bloodvault within at the end of the last book, with Jataan P'Tal's forces camped outside in wait. In this book, Alexander and his friends must go to retrieve the Sovereign Stone, an ancient artefact that Prince Phane desperately wants (mild spoiler - kinda), as it will allow him to send armies across the isles through special gates to surprise and devastate his enemies. It would also teach Phane the secret of Wizard's Dust - the powerful substance that allows wizards and mages to gain their power.
I must say, I enjoyed this book more than I did the first book. In my review for 'Thinblade'
, I mentioned that I found the writing to be quite annoying and simple. Halfway through 'Thinblade' though that stopped being so much of an issue, and the same can be said here. I found Wells' writing style to be improved in this book, as he obviously must have hit his stride by this point. One thing I have to say carried on though, to my annoyance a bit, was that Wells would constantly re-use certain descriptions for characters. I can understand reinforcing an idea, but when Anatoly is referred to as the "big man-at-arms" or Lucky as a "rotund alchemist" for example every like 15 pages at least, it does get tedious.
The characters developed somewhat from the previous book, but were still the same, basic and somewhat flat people they were then, although I cannot criticise Wells too much for this as it cannot be easy to hugely change a character to make them less flat without, you know, huge dramatic changes and you can't really do that to all of them.
Plot discussion (total spoilers): The plot was okay, if slightly boring. As they were just travelling around for the most part running from Jataan.
I thought Alexander and Isabel's wedding halfway through the book was ridiculously cheesy and fast (I mean, they can only have known each other for a couple of months at most), especially since even less time had been spent developing their love/relationship than in the last book. I found ironic and stupid (even if none of the characters did) that it occurred right after the Fairy Queen was criticising the fact that they hadn't devoted their lives to each other whilst they were trying to win their allegiance, and so they decide to get married on the spur of the moment, and yet no one thinks this is a bit weird and stuff and blergh. Yeah, just... strange.
Chloe was an... interesting addition to the group. Considering all the warnings about the Fairy Queen's price for her loyalty etc. - with Chloe and Alexander 'bonding' and being in love (as well as Isabel and Alexander) there doesn't seem to be any actual issue - Isabel isn't remotely upset or jealous or anything... which just seems a bit unrealistic to me.
Also, the 'revelation' that Alexander is of the Reishi bloodline was so obvious. I mean, when he and Phane had HUGELY similar physical descriptions (ie. their gold-flecked eyes) within like 20 pages of each other at the beginning of the first book, I immediately called it that they'd be related - well guess what!! So obvious... And it so convieniently handled the problem of Jataan, the uber-soldier who they could never defeat and who was so unhappy serving Phane, as he immediately switched sides (also - I totally called that Jataan would switch sides during book 1 as well).
The Sovereign Stone seems like a bit of a deus ex machina since it allows Alexander to talk and gain knowledge from the previous Reishi sovereigns...
Also what I wanted to talk about was Alexander and his character - I'd mentioned in my review for 'Thinblade' that Alexander wasn't really the typical hero in these types of stories. There never really seems any doubt that he'll succeed in anything he tries, and he seems to be an amazing strategist etc. and he is never corrected or has to be helped or guided in anything. What worries me most though, is that he doesn't seem to have any problem killing, particularly when it comes to nobles and such. I mean, killing on the battlefield is one thing, but when the group passes through Kai'Gorn - he almost nonchalantly decapitates the (admittedly corrupt) ruler there and tosses his head into a crowd. He then later nonchalantly kills the regent of Southport, and he does both because they're corrupt and serve Phane. He justifies this as him dispensing justice and upholding the Old Law, but at the same time it just seems ruthless and bloodthirsty, and part of me hopes that it might be prelude to a subplot about him being a bit tyrannical, although since no one has really had an issue yet I doubt it. Maybe I'm just too soft and idealistic, but it just doesn't sit right with me .
Overall, I enjoyed this book more than the first one. I felt the author had hit his stride with his writing style by this point, and the overall storyline is progressing nicely, even if it was a tad boring this time. The story for the next book is set up nicely and looks interesting. Some plot revelations were a bit obvious though and there were some things character and plot wise that just seemed a bit off and flat or strange. Overall though, a good book (and Im sorry that a significant part of my review is hidden by spoilers!)