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Stoneseeker: The Floating Isles #3 (review)

Creator: Scott Pritchett

Independently published, 2023

The cover to this third chapter of Stoneseeker features a goofy image of a boy yelling, astride a sanguine giant goat, with a solemn woman in red clutching a rock in her right hand sitting on the goat’s hindquarters. With this cover image, creator Scott Pritchett does not sell Stoneseeker to us well, and does an injustice to himself, his exemplary work, and to readers who might thoroughly enjoy this title but look away, uninspired. In November 2022 we reviewed the first and second issues of Stoneseeker – see and used phrases such as “beautiful art” and “entertaining mix of players” to describe the cast. That assessment holds with this third issue.

The story, which had been reasonably light-hearted, takes a dark turn. Our protagonist is the intense Irin. She repeatedly defies the laws of physics, the expectations of the local townspeople, and her peers from the Geology Tuition (a kind of magical academy, although never once does Mr Pritchett use the word “magic” – it is all “geology”). We are never quite sure as to whether or not Irin is unreasonable in her obsession with finding her father and her sister somewhere lost within the Floating Isles. The Floating Isles are enormous rocks which hover silently in the sky. They have over decades become a tourist attraction. Irin, with the help of a local guide / urchin named Peake and his goat, unimaginatively named Goat, achieves her task. Irin’s father Baer is missing, but Irin and Peake accidentally manage to find his concealed home. It is more a laboratory than a cave, carved within one of the isles. Irin and Peake also unexpectedly find Milesse, Irin’s younger sister, in a magically induced coma, unaged in the tradition of Sleeping Beauty.

Irin can channel specific types of energies through shaped stones. Alistair, a professor of Geology and powerful mage, and the scowling warrior Oella, can do the same thing.

And it evolves that Peake’s sister Aeva has raw talent, too. Mr Pritchett takes care to paint Alistair as a kindly, concerned old man, a teacher, quick to apologise and who needed to bring Oella with him for muscle. He is uncertain about spicy food. Aeva describes him as “patient, kind”, and sincere too, quick to apologise to a restaurant owner for Aeva’s effort in almost burning it down.

Alistair is more akin to a musician than a wizard. At the restaurant, mid-lesson to Aeva, he causes a carved stone to glow with fire. “When you carve a stone, like this, its dormant properties are easier to control,” he teaches Aeva. “It flows with our touch. Like music from a flute.” Alistair smiles with his eyes, a happy man who enjoys his gift. When Irin appears on a wooden bridge with Peake, Goat, and the unconscious Milesse, Alistair’s sudden act of violence and betrayal is a shock. Mr Pritchett catches us in an elaborate trap which he has been building for three issues.

Irin’s determination to release her sister from a magical cocoon caused by something called the Endstone has a gruesome price, and the Endstone’s removal causes the Floating Isles to catastrophically disintegrate. Oella is the unexpected hero, while Irin, Milesse and Goat are all believed dead. Chaos is not how anyone expected this first canto, The Floating Isles, to end. Mr Pritchett’s finesse should keep his audience enthralled for the next chapter.