Grey Stone

In the land of the great red sun, wolf-shifters reign—able to wield magic and shift form at will while privileged wolves serve them. Dogs rove through the woods in packs speaking, singing, and scavenging—afraid to befriend the humans who live repressed. As the lowest of all four races, the humans work at mines, fashion metals, and send over half their gains to the wolf-shifting king. However, when Pietre, an impoverished human boy, finds an unusual, orphaned pup in the woods and the wolf-shifting prince is sent to arrest the boy’s father soon after, both boy and prince begin to realize that obeying the rules might be just as dangerous as breaking them. Unfortunately, breaking the rules means they’ll have to learn to work together if they want to change their world before it turns on them.

Genre

YA fantasy

Critic Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 10

When I first look at the cover, I get a sense that it is going to be a fantasy novel of some sort.  The symmetry of it reminds me of the back of a tarot card design.  The detail is intricate enough without being overwhelming.  The color scheme I think captures both the majesty and the violence the novel contains.  I really like how the first and last letter of Stone is bigger than the rest of the letters.  It brings the title together nicely.  Good choice!

Book Blurb Score: 7

On first reading the blurb without knowing anything about the different classes of wolves and dogs and humans, it was a little confusing to me.  For that reason, the first half of the blurb almost made me want to put the book down.  It was an issue of too much information crammed into a couple sentences.  With that being said, the last half of the blurb where Pietre is mentioned grabbed my attention all over again.  I think that from that point on would make an exceptional blurb by itself.  The reader would still get a sense that it is a fantasy novel with interesting creatures and an idea of the main conflict.

Formatting Score: 10

I found no issues with formatting.  Separate scenes within the same chapter were clearly marked, spacing was consistent, and the page numbers on opposite sides of the page like a printed book were all done well.  I also loved the map at the beginning and the pronunciation guide and terms at the end.  All of those were nice touches.  Good job!

Grammar & Spelling Score: 10

The only things I found were a wrong word on page 64 (Do you find the death or your…  ‘Or’ should be ‘of’), and an awkward phrase on page 86 (Lead singer sang…  I think “Leader sang” would flow better).

Plot & Structure Score: 10

Everything worked to move the story forward.  Both the plot and subplots were clear.  Dialogue and actions were smooth.  Each scene flowed into the next without issue, and complete scene breaks were clearly marked to avoid confusion.

Character Development Score: 10

Firstly, I will say that I adored every character in this book.  Bad guys, good guys, and all those in between.  For the purpose of critiquing, I’ll focus on my favorite character, Wittendon.  His appearance was briefly mentioned without going into every little detail, leaving a lot up to the reader’s imagination, which I personally feel is a good thing.  His struggle between right and wrong and where he fits in it was perfect.  I felt every pull toward one end or the other with him, from his frustrations with Sadora to him questioning his father’s judgment.  His love interest wasn’t a straightforward Disney Princess-style romance where he sought the perfect girl who he felt nothing but warm feelings for.  There were times when he was absolutely furious with her for feeling like he was lead on and used, and I felt for him.  In terms of his back story, it was brought out perfectly in little chunks at a time.  The little bits here and there made it so it wasn’t boring or overwhelming, but actually left me wanting to hear more.

Originality Score: 9

It was a classic tale of a shift of power, but with a twist.  Instead of humans or elves or other commonly used humanoid creatures, the focus was on dogs and wolves and werewolves (but don’t call them that to their face!)  The tiers from the Veranderen to dogs to humans and those in between was a nice change.  I enjoyed that magic was conjured and described as events and feelings the user was drawing from.  As I mentioned before, I liked the untypical love story.  I also liked that roles were different than I thought when it came to the races and caring for the young, old, and sick.  I would have expected humans to keep their own safe and the dogs or Veranderen to abandon them in the woods.  All in all, good job!

Pacing Score: 10

Everything was spaced out well and moved the story without issue.  Back story was given in small chunks in a short chapter or weaved into the story itself.  It was easy to get lost in and just enjoy the story.

Use of Language Score: 10

There were a few sections that stood out for me.  In Chapter 2, when Pietre is talking with his mother and trying to lie about where he’s been by saying that mint was scarce, she comes back with, “Adventure, I take it, was not?”  That one line brought me from being indifferent to what happened to her to deeply caring about her.  The sass!  Another part in Chapter 2 I enjoyed was “…dreaming in blood until at last the amethyst dawn washed into his nightmares.”  Beautiful.  In Chapter 26, “Young couples danced like snowflakes on the floor below them.”  I’ve never heard dancing described as such.  I like it!

Overall Readability Score: 10

I liked this story a lot, and would definitely recommend it to a friend.  The authors did a fantastic job on the book.  There are so many twists and turns and big reveals that the 300+ pages go by fast.  It was full of action and suspense.  Some sections had me literally on the edge of my seat wondering who would come out ahead, and sometimes I was upset and other times I was relieved by the outcome.  I think that the unpredictability of each little spat or full-on battle makes the book truly exceptional.  I believe Grey Stone belongs on Storyteller Alley.  Fantastic work!

This book received a critic's score of 96 out of 100 possible points.

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