In this second volume of Donoghue’s fantasy series, a scientist and his friends hope to defeat villains in the search for a lost civilization’s mysterious stones.
Shadows of the Stone Benders (2016) introduced Anlon Cully, a biochemist who made a fortune and retired at 42 to enjoy Lake Tahoe and his yacht. But Anlon soon found a new occupation: investigating his archaeologist uncle Devlin Wilson’s suspicious death, connected with a set of stone artifacts with powerful qualities that point to an ancient, highly developed civilization. For example, a Tuliskaera, or Flash Stone, can slice through any object, making it a formidable tool or weapon. Villains want these stones, and Cully barely escaped with his life following a confrontation. Now he’s recuperating at Lake Tahoe with his girlfriend, the pink-haired, tattooed, and pierced Eleanor “Pebbles” McCarver, and their friend Jennifer Stevens, a Massachusetts police detective who helped investigate a case in Book 1. Together, they puzzle over information Devlin left behind and try to learn more about the stones and where more artifacts are located. It’s a race to find the artifacts before other searchers, some of whom will stop at nothing to get their hands on the stones, which, it turns out, have their own back story involving an ancient tragedy, a grieving mother, and a Betrayer. In this follow-up to Book 1, Donoghue similarly provides an Indiana Jones–like mélange of archaeology, treasure, villains, jungles, and ancient science. (Although it’s possible to follow this book as a stand-alone volume, it’ll make more sense read in sequence.) His characters are well-defined, important in a story so driven by the particulars of how an unknown technology works, sections that will be best appreciated by readers with a taste for engineering. Overall, Donoghue is conscientious in his explanations, which do offer verisimilitude but can become a bit dull, especially the careful and lengthy consideration of Wilson’s ambiguous maps. But the series also offers excitement, suspense, and action, together with near-mystical encounters with a long-dead woman of the ancient civilization, helping to balance sometimes-dry science and logistics.
A solid follow-up to the series that answers many questions.