Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Ever since he was a small boy, Alex has had a talent for picking pockets. One day, however, Alex steals the wrong coin from the wrong man. That man is named Pritchard and he and his boss, Mr. Henry, are determined to get that coin back at any cost. But rather than visit physical harm on the talented young boy, they give Alex a world-class education and train him to be the best cat burglar in the world, bar none. Sixteen years and several PhDs later, Alex is on the biggest assignment of his life: stealing a special stone worth eight figures at least. With this haul, Alex is hoping he may finally pay off the debt to his ad hoc guardians and gain his freedom. This assignment feels janky from the get-go, but Alex chalks that up to a truncated pre-heist prepping period. On the day of the steal, just as the tension reaches a crescendo in his mind, he runs into a trusted Professor from school who just may be a safe harbor for Alex….little does Alex know that this meeting was not by chance.

Professor Gershman has been teaching for a long time and he sees in Alex something special. That’s why he brings Alex into the fold, despite Alex‘s profession as a cat burglar. In fact, the special stone Alex has with him when Professor Gershman not so randomly bumps into him acts as a catalyst. With the professor’s help, Alex unlocks the secret of the stone. Namely, Alex plays a critical role in releasing a young man named Kaleb. Things only get wilder from there. Alex learns Kaleb is part of a secret race of demigods called the Earned, that witches are real, and that the balance of power amongst different religious factions hangs in the balance. Maybe losing the stone will cost him dearly when it comes to Mr. Henry and Pritchard, but helping release Kaleb earns Alex the right to be Kaleb’s “honored one.” In other words, Alex gets to choose what purpose Kaleb will serve to mortals on earth. Despite this luck, it’s not all smooth sailing from there. In helping Kaleb, Alex will be forced to confront his sexuality–something his benefactors would absolutely not accept. Finding that magical stone also puts Alex, Kaleb, and everyone around them at danger of triggering a holy war unlike any other as evil factions from the Vatican seek other magical stones and the ability to find them.

Anchored in Stone is the first book in the Chronicles of an Earned series by Meraki P. Lyhne, and was originally released in 2017. The story takes place in the present day and is set partially in the Pacific Northwest in the United States, and partially in England and parts of Europe. Our two main characters, Alex and Kaleb, represent the two main sides of the good guys in the story. Kaleb, whose father is a respected Earned and whose mother is a reviled (I think?) witch, gives us insight into this mythological world of demigods and their social workings. Alex, as a mortal, serves as the focal point for understanding how the Earned fit into mortal society–which is apparently typically unknown to mortals, but Alex’s role as stealer of Kaleb’s stone provides unique insight into the human/Earned relationship. Namely, that humans provide energy for Earned as Earned use their powers to help humans accomplish goals. It was interesting that these are our two main characters, but they do not seem to be love interests. Both Kaleb and Alex find other characters with whom they form if not emotional bonds, then physical ones.

This is a very busy plot. Early in the book, when we are focusing on Alex being basically sold into a life of professional crime, it was easy to follow along with the basic cat burglar story. After establishing Alex’s upbringing, it was then exciting to slip into the mystical aspects of the Earned when Alex meets his professor after stealing the stone. There was a wonderful sense of anticipation about whether or not this professor meant good or ill for Alex and whether Alex’s benefactors were more of the tough love variety (rough edges hiding good intentions) or gentleman thugs (a veneer of respectability hiding rotten scoundrels).

As the story progresses, we get more and more insight into Kaleb’s world and the culture of the Earned. Kaleb’s father takes him to live in the U.S. with a whole huge family of other Earned, which sets up a contrast between all the regular Earned and the strife caused by Kaleb having a witch as a mother (note: witches seem to be pariahs in this story). This concept of struggle, for Kaleb fighting to be seen as a person rather than demonized for his mother’s genes, was great in theory. The execution, however, struggles due to the casual tone of the writing. All the Earned Kaleb goes to live with treat him poorly, rejecting him out of hand or speaking in ways that seemed cold to me. This was great to establish how othering it was for Kaleb to have had a witch for a mother, but it was befuddling to me when all that animosity gets thrown out on its ear when there is an inkling that Kaleb’s extremely powerful ability to manipulate many kinds of energy could benefit the Earned. Just one supporting character had a transitional period where he came to appreciate Kaleb on his own terms, but the dozen or so other named supporting characters seemed to have zero transition. They treat Kaleb like garbage and assume the worst, until he’s maybe the only hope to fight an enemy faction of demigods.

The whole “there might be war” thread was also conspicuously underdeveloped. It seemed to spring up out of nowhere three-quarters of the way through the book, yet goes from mere rumor to hard fact in a couple of pages. While the two combatant groups–the Earned and that other faction of demigods–are well described in the book, they just didn’t seem to carry the weight of “warring factions.” Never mind what they were going to be fighting over.

Overall, I thought this book was OK at best. The story has a strong beginning, clearly outlining who Alex is and building intrigue with the introduction of the Earned. However, the writing just doesn’t support the richness of the world. Despite being a secret race, there are so many instances where the Earned speak and act bizarrely in front of ignorant mortals…and those mortals never seem to question any of it. The whole “witches corrupt” thread was clearly shown in bias against Kaleb, but not meaningfully explored by any characters, not even when Kaleb proves he’s capable of controlling his witch powers.  As an introduction to a new series, it didn’t quite spark a deep interest for me in continuing with these characters, but it does end with a mild cliffhanger to whet the reader’s appetite for future books.