As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story.
Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.
So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen — jewlery that is very special.
Opaline has a rare gift: a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message… directly to her. 1
When I needed a new audiobook, the cover of The Secret Language of Stones drew me in only to find it was a sequel to a book that I had already read. I was hesitant because of my feelings for how the first book ended but when you need an audiobook in a hurry and have limited selection, you go with what you can get.
Opaline is the daughter of architect Julian, and artist Sandrine (also known as La Lune). Opaline is aware of the magic her mother and bloodline possess and has run away to live with family friends in Paris. While trying to avoid her fate and the strange powers that possess her mother, Opaline manages to run straight towards her fate and requires the knowledge and the magic of her family more than ever.
Opaline has the gift to hear through gems and stones. With the devastating war all around her, she chooses to use her gift to offer some sort of solace to the ones left behind by the victims of war. In the first book, Sandrine was possessed by the spirit of La Lune, a witch who stays alive by possessing the daughters of her bloodline. La Lune was unable to seduce Sandrine’s grandmother in the first book, and her grandmother tried everything she could think of to save Sandrine and keep La Lune away. In the end, the grandmother was shipped off to a mental asylum and La Lune got her way. It seemed like a horribly unhappy ending, and it was interesting in The Secret Language of Stones how things were so easily pieced together. Sandrine and La Lune are one, and everybody knows it and it is grand. Sandrine used her magic to wipe away some of the mental damage done to her grandmother and her grandmother is back to normal and simply grins and bares it. This story is Opaline’s story though, not Sandrine, so Sandrine makes only a few appearances, and her grandmother even less. New characters are introduced along Opaline’s journey in war torn Paris while the story keeps it’s magic (and it’s oddities).
I much preferred Opaline over Sandrine. Sandrine and her grandmother’s story started out so unique and with such potential before spiralling out of control. My attentions usually perk up at the mention of magic, witches, gemstones and the Romanovs. I haven’t gone to the extent of obsessively researching the full details of the events, but the Romanovs untimely end and the mystery of Anastasia for so many years was the horrors and mystery of a fictional novel come to life. The Secret Language of Stones was able to wrap all these elements together without completely jumping off the deep end, but where would we be without M.J. Rose’s odd adventures? In the Secret Language of Stones, Opaline finds herself falling in love with the spirit of one of the fallen soldiers. Although his spirit is faint, he is able to touch Opaline in more ways than any physical man has ever done before.
The Secret Language of Stones definitely redeems The Witch of Painted Sorrows, but only a little. I much prefer the sequel which is relatively unheard of in most cases, but just because I preferred it and enjoyed many of the elements from the book doesn’t mean I will be praises this one to the high heavens. It was a positive quick find and better than the first which should count for something, but it’s nothing I would consider adding to my library.
- Book summary courtesy of M.J. Rose book page.