What It’s About:
Farmhand and horse trainer, Thomas, has a poor relationship with his father, never truly able to please the man. When Thomas discovers a unique looking stone, he keeps it hidden from those close to him, cherishing it as the one and only special aspect of his life. However, Thomas quickly realizes that it is no ordinary rock; the talisman allows him the ability to listen to the thoughts of others – an enticing and addictive prospect for a boy who longs to be seen and to see the world. As villages all across the kingdom of Arvenon are being destroyed by an unknown, menacing enemy, Thomas and his one true friend – a rising military leader named Will Prentis – are thrust into a fight they could never have imagined possible.
What I Liked:
This is a well-written, young adult fantasy novel. The prose is seemingly flawless in its execution – a rare feat for a self-published author. Packer has a real knack for story-telling and word choice. I was truly impressed with how polished the book felt.
The characters of Will and Rufe, while certainly fulfilling tropes often found in fantasy, are just so enjoyable to read. Will’s admirable advancement as a soldier to an officer is enhanced by his personality. Will leads by example and his men will follow him into death for this very reason. Rufe, a brute of a soldier and Will’s right-hand-man, is a skilled warrior who is rumored to be a legendary berserker when in battle. Archetypal characters such as these could prevent any book from being engaging, but I found that their story, in particular, held my attention to the end. This is unquestionably due to their excellent character development.
Forgiveness is a major theme in The Stone of Knowing. What I really enjoyed about how Packer presented the theme was in its complexity as an action. Forgiveness can be incredibly difficult. Oftentimes it is easier to hate another person than to forgive them — this also goes for hating oneself as well. Packer delved into this facet of forgiveness, but also explored the following questions: what if you aren’t sorry for something you’ve done? And, if you are a person of faith, how do you reconcile your faith in God with the moral quandary of not being sorry? Beautiful ideas presented in an equally beautiful fashion.
What Didn’t Do It For Me:
I did not enjoy the character of Thomas at all. This became an interesting dilemma to face while reading The Stone of Knowing, as the story of Thomas – the main protagonist of the novel – accounts for at least half of the novel. Thomas’s uneasy relationship with his father can surely account for his difficult attitude at times; however, I found Thomas to be what one might consider the quintessential annoying teenager: whiny, disrespectful, and oftentimes reactionary, with not much growth.
I loved the idea of what the stone could do to its owner, but it felt as though Thomas didn’t actually use it too often. There were only a handful of occasions – once he figured out its true power – that the reader actually experiences its use with Thomas. This, I would assume, is partially due to the fact that half of the novel explores Will’s journey, and he doesn’t carry the stone. Whatever the case may be, I didn’t feel that the subject of the title itself truly lived up to its potential, though I assume it will be explored in further installments.
There is a lot left unresolved. Many of the threads that are weaved together throughout the novel (the invasion, the king and his queen, Thomas and the stone, Thomas and his family) are left open, clearly setting up a sequel. The problem is that not much of anything is resolved. When the final chapter concluded, I felt as though I could have read another two hundred pages for some resolution before introducing a setup for book two.
The Stone of Knowing is a fun, engaging, and well-written novel. Though there were certain aspects of it that left me wanting more or didn’t quite hook me, I did enjoy much of the book. If you like young adult fantasy adventures and unique magic, this book could be for you!