Official Review: Stone Circle by Kate Murdoch

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Official Review: Stone Circle by Kate Murdoch

Post by gen_g » 11 May 2018, 09:48

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Stone Circle" by Kate Murdoch.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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Kate Murdoch’s Stone Circle is a coming-of-age novel belonging to the magical realism genre. Set in sixteenth-century Pesaro, Italy, Stone Circle depicts the emotional, psychological and moral trajectory of two young men tackling the various struggles encountered in the face of impending adulthood.

There are two main characters, the first being Antonius, a male teenager from the poorer parts of Pesaro, whose family is need in of money after his father, the sole breadwinner, dies in an accident at sea. He moves to the heart of Pesaro and manages to find a job at the aristocrat Conte Valperga’s household. This allows him to join and win the competition held by the respected seer Savinus, whose ailing health had forced him to search for an apprentice to pass his vast knowledge and skills to.

The second young man is Nichola Valperga, Conte Valperga’s second son. An entitled and manipulative person, Nichola too joins the competition, and is awarded the role of the secondary apprentice to Antonius’s primary. Due to this, Nichola harbours feelings of jealousy and is antagonistic towards Antonius, as he believes that the role of primary apprentice should be his due to his status as Antonius’s social superior. Nichola therefore constructs nefarious plots and manipulates events to disgrace Antonius, even whilst Antonius tries to understand and forgive Nichola’s actions. The novel then continues to explore their path towards emotional maturity and adulthood by showing the reader their interactions, actions and motives.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stone Circle, and there are two major contributing factors.

Firstly, Murdoch possesses an impressive ability to weave an intricate and realistic background in which her characters live out their lives. It is also obvious that she has done a lot of research, as shown in the novel’s detailed portrayal of sixteenth-century Italian customs and traditions for the three social classes present: the peasant/lower class (Antonius), the merchant/middle class (Savinus and his daughter Giulia) and the upper/aristocratic class (Nichola and his family). Coupled with the fantastical (which include shapeshifting and the practice of alchemy), Stone Circle is able to retain an element of magic and mystery, despite being well-tempered with realistic elements for the reader to enjoy.

Secondly, I love the fact that Murdoch takes effort to portray realistic interactions between the abovementioned social classes. She also often chooses to utilise a single character to portray the thoughts and actions of another. From this, I was able to better understand and empathise with both characters, as their strengths and flaws are made all the more obvious – therefore becoming multi-faceted and relatable. I appreciate this, as it allows for deeper immersion into the story. In fact, I find myself raging for Antonius’s sake when he falls into one of Nichola’s nefarious traps; my heart is torn when Savinus is forced to confront the fact of his failing health; and finally, I am filled with empathy and understanding for Nichola’s actions towards Antonius when details of his childhood and inner thought processes are revealed.

However, if I had to list something that niggled at me, it would be the love triangle subplot between Giulia, Nichola, and Antonius at the end of the novel, which felt slightly rushed. I would appreciate a lot more insight and exploration into Giulia’s thought processes as to the emotional upheaval she must have experienced throughout the story, especially with her father’s rapidly deteriorating health and her own tumultuous love life.

In a nutshell, I give Stone Circle 3 out of 4 stars, and would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who loves a fast-paced story and multi-dimensional characters, along with a dash of magic. I would have given it 4 stars, had Murdoch had taken the time to develop the ending to its fullest potential. However, it is still a fascinating and exciting read – especially if you are looking for an enjoyable way to pass a few hours in your armchair with a cup of tea by visiting the bustling sixteenth-century city of Pesaro!

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Post by Libs_Books » 12 May 2018, 02:23

gen_g wrote: ↑
11 May 2018, 09:48
However, it is still a fascinating and exciting read – especially if you are looking for an enjoyable way to pass a few hours in your armchair with a cup of tea by visiting the bustling sixteenth-century city of Pesaro!
That sounds very inviting! A lovely ending to a great review - I especially appreciated your analysis of how the author handles character interaction.

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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 02:38

Libs_Books wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 02:23
gen_g wrote: ↑
11 May 2018, 09:48
However, it is still a fascinating and exciting read – especially if you are looking for an enjoyable way to pass a few hours in your armchair with a cup of tea by visiting the bustling sixteenth-century city of Pesaro!
That sounds very inviting! A lovely ending to a great review - I especially appreciated your analysis of how the author handles character interaction.
Thank you for your reply! Yes, it was very fascinating, as the author actually parallelised Nichola and Antonius in the story - the outcomes of which are very interesting, which is all I can say without giving away spoilers! If you do pick it up, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (:

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Post by Ginnamassa19 » 12 May 2018, 02:42

It sounds like an amazing read! It's always lovely when you can see that an author has done research and knows their stuff, and Murdoch seems to have combined this with good writing as well :)

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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 03:27

Ginnamassa19 wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 02:42
It sounds like an amazing read! It's always lovely when you can see that an author has done research and knows their stuff, and Murdoch seems to have combined this with good writing as well :)
Yes indeed, it was a great story which had me enraptured from start to finish. Thank you for your reply!

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Post by Laura Bach » 12 May 2018, 03:58

The cover made me think this was a sci-fi book, but I am glad it is not. The social classes that are depicted here seem fun to watch, as they interract and even have love conflicts. I am glad you liked the story and I wish to read it too. Great review!

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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 04:17

Laura Ungureanu wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 03:58
The cover made me think this was a sci-fi book, but I am glad it is not. The social classes that are depicted here seem fun to watch, as they interract and even have love conflicts. I am glad you liked the story and I wish to read it too. Great review!
Thank you very much for your kind reply! It was interesting to read, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did! (:

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Post by Kibetious » 12 May 2018, 04:22

Thanks for the review. The summary of the book is well done, reveals much and still creates the urge to read the book. I would also not love to see a situation where the ending of a book is rushed to such an extent that there remians a gap for the reader to fill.
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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 05:26

Kibetious wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 04:22
Thanks for the review. The summary of the book is well done, reveals much and still creates the urge to read the book. I would also not love to see a situation where the ending of a book is rushed to such an extent that there remians a gap for the reader to fill.
Thank you for taking the time to reply! I’m glad that my review has piqued your interest. It was a very interesting book, and I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did! (:

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Post by Bianka Walter » 12 May 2018, 06:54

I love a book that has been thoroughly researched. It always makes it that little bit more interesting knowing that the author has taken the time and put in the work.
Thank so much for the great review!
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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 07:05

Bianka Walter wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 06:54
I love a book that has been thoroughly researched. It always makes it that little bit more interesting knowing that the author has taken the time and put in the work.
Thank so much for the great review!
Thank you for your reply! (: I hope that if you pick up the book you’ll enjoy it too.

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Post by cpru68 » 12 May 2018, 07:53

The cover threw me off a bit as it didn’t coincide with what you described the content of the book possesses. It sounds like a fun one to read with the historical part mixed in with the magic. And, a love triangle? Sounds like a lot going on storywise with this one.
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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 08:08

cpru68 wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 07:53
The cover threw me off a bit as it didn’t coincide with what you described the content of the book possesses. It sounds like a fun one to read with the historical part mixed in with the magic. And, a love triangle? Sounds like a lot going on storywise with this one.
Yes indeed! The story is certainly a fast-paced one, but exciting nonetheless. (: Thank you for your reply!

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Post by SABRADLEY » 12 May 2018, 09:56

A 16th-Century Italian setting is quite inviting! Add to that the realistic characters and period-appropriate details, and we have a winner. Well, almost! The ending must have left a lot to be desired. Thanks for a detailed review!

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Post by gen_g » 12 May 2018, 10:14

SABRADLEY wrote: ↑
12 May 2018, 09:56
A 16th-Century Italian setting is quite inviting! Add to that the realistic characters and period-appropriate details, and we have a winner. Well, almost! The ending must have left a lot to be desired. Thanks for a detailed review!
Thank you for your kind comments!

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