GATES OF STONE by Angus Macallan. Review

GATES OF STONE by Angus Macallan.

ACE Books. p/b. £13.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

His War-Master thinks him sloppy, lacking in discipline – something he would not hesitate to report to Prince Arjun’s father. As heir he should be able to fight but that does not mean he wants to spend his days training in the Watergarden. As danger approaches unseen, Jun has no idea his world is about to change forever.

There is a new faith gaining followers and popularity. She may not agree with its teachings but as their future ruler she is willing to learn all it speaks. Her wedding day is finally here, with its feast of 99 courses and a sea of guests draped in ostentatious displays of wealth. Her Southron prince awaits; the next step in her quest ready to play out. Princess Katerina, passed over for rule in her own kingdom because of her gender, now has her sights set on much more… no matter the cost.

Even before the first chapter is over the reader sees how much more there is to Princess Katerina and how long a game she has already been playing. This book combines political machinations and overthrown kingdoms with ancient sorcery and gladiatorial violence against a backdrop scattered with familiar touches of our own world.

Gates of Stone is told through the eyes of its key characters including Katerina on her mission to claim the Empire as hers, Jun in the wake of his father’s death and Farhan adventuring at his king’s bidding. Katerina’s ruthless determination to achieve her goals contrasts well against Jun’s reserved, tentative acceptance of his new situation, and Farhan is a real gem of a trader, somewhat reminiscent of past favourite characters.

The narrative moves at a good pace and is not lacking in substantial worldbuilding to bring this brutal world and the brutal acts of its peoples to life. Macallan smoothly draws elements of the different cultures and belief systems together in a way that feels entirely believable and entirely historic. There is definitely place for this new series on the bookshelves.