Published: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Forge Books
Pages: 304 (Hardcover)
My Rating: 4.0/5.0
For centuries the Túatha Dé Danann lived in peace on an island where time flowed more slowly and the seasons were gentle–until that peace was shattered by the arrival of invaders. The Gaels, the Children of Milesios, came looking for easy riches and conquest, following the story of an island to the west where their every desire could be granted. They had not anticipated that it would already be home to others, and against the advice of their druids, they begin to exterminate the Túatha Dé Danann.
After a happy and innocent childhood, Joss was on the cusp of becoming a man when the Gaels slaughtered the kings and queens of the Túatha Dé Danann. Left without a mother and father, he must find a way to unite what is left of his people and lead them into hiding. But even broken and scattered, Joss and his people are not without strange powers.
Morgan Llywelyn weaves Irish mythology, historical elements, and ancient places in the Irish landscape to create a riveting tale of migration, loss, and transformation in Only the Stones Survive.
After doing some background research on the history of Only the Stones Survive, I was super excited to be offered a chance to review it by my contact at Tor Books which I accepted. The book is based on Irish mythology, specifically the people called the Tuatha de Danann which eventually evolved into the faeries we are more familiar with. I’m a big fan of world mythology, particularly Western European folklore, so this book really caught my eye. Besides, anything that is vaguely inspired by the Fae is probably on my reading list.
Only the Stones Survive is the carefully told story of the fall of the Tuatha de Danann through the eyes of one of the few surviving members of their race. Joss, later called Elgolai na Starbird was a child when the war with the Gaels began and was a man when it ended. He tells of the slaughter of their Kings and Queens and warriors and how the children and the old hid in caverns, ever on the lookout for their enemy. I was surprised by how moving I found the story to be and was pleased with the outcome. I’m not sure what exactly I expected when I picked it up, but at times the emotions of the characters felt somewhat distant as if the reader is a bird observing events from a great height. At other times the emotions were raw, particularly in the moments of grief and loss. The overall tone of the book was somewhat despairing, but finished with a hopeful, almost triumphant feeling. I was surprised that I enjoyed the book so much!
Morgan Llywelyn is an extremely talented writer and this book is one of many on the history of the Celts and Ireland. In the future I can see myself exploring her works further, both fiction and nonfiction. I would definitely recommend Only the Stones Survive to fans of historical fiction, folklore, mythology, or those who enjoy a broad spectrum of fantasy novels. This was really a beautifully done tale of love, loss and the growth of a leader, reluctant though he may have been.