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Set in Stone

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In medieval Moldova, two women from opposing backgrounds fall in love. But this is a world where a woman’s role is defined by religion and class. To make a life together means defying their families, the law, and the Church. The closer they become, and the more they refuse the roles assigned to them, the more sacrifices they have to make. While Mira’s rebellion puts her lif In medieval Moldova, two women from opposing backgrounds fall in love. But this is a world where a woman’s role is defined by religion and class. To make a life together means defying their families, the law, and the Church. The closer they become, and the more they refuse the roles assigned to them, the more sacrifices they have to make. While Mira’s rebellion puts her life in the gravest danger, Elina must fight to change her legal status to ‘son’ so she can inherit her father’s land and change their destiny. Set in Stone delves into the past to uncover a story which is just as relevant today: the desire to forge your own path while constantly having to resist a patriarchal fear of women’s strength – and how ultimately love can help you choose your own truth.


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In medieval Moldova, two women from opposing backgrounds fall in love. But this is a world where a woman’s role is defined by religion and class. To make a life together means defying their families, the law, and the Church. The closer they become, and the more they refuse the roles assigned to them, the more sacrifices they have to make. While Mira’s rebellion puts her lif In medieval Moldova, two women from opposing backgrounds fall in love. But this is a world where a woman’s role is defined by religion and class. To make a life together means defying their families, the law, and the Church. The closer they become, and the more they refuse the roles assigned to them, the more sacrifices they have to make. While Mira’s rebellion puts her life in the gravest danger, Elina must fight to change her legal status to ‘son’ so she can inherit her father’s land and change their destiny. Set in Stone delves into the past to uncover a story which is just as relevant today: the desire to forge your own path while constantly having to resist a patriarchal fear of women’s strength – and how ultimately love can help you choose your own truth.

30 review for Set in Stone

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maja - BibliophiliaDK ✨

    AN INTERESTING PREMISE LET DOWN BY A LACK OF DEVELOPMENT Development. That's definitely the one thing this story needed. For while the premise was interesting, the setting was unique and the story was engaging, it never really managed to capture me. It just left me wanting more. I needed more plot-development. I needed more insight into the characters. I especially needed more romance. That was probably the biggest offender. I never really understood why Elina and Mira were suddenly in love. It c AN INTERESTING PREMISE LET DOWN BY A LACK OF DEVELOPMENT Development. That's definitely the one thing this story needed. For while the premise was interesting, the setting was unique and the story was engaging, it never really managed to capture me. It just left me wanting more. I needed more plot-development. I needed more insight into the characters. I especially needed more romance. That was probably the biggest offender. I never really understood why Elina and Mira were suddenly in love. It came out of nowhere and blindsided me. I really didn't understand it. And with their romance being the driving factor of the story, it really hurt my overall appreciation of the book. ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review Follow me for more book loving content! Blog ✨ Facebook ✨ Instagram ✨ Twitter Blog Post: 10 Criminally Underrated YA Books with an LGBTQ Twist

  2. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    Based on a folktale that is well-known in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, this book was highly readable and undeniably interesting, but I found the pacing a little uneven. I can see why this story would have caught the interest of the author as a child. In medieval Moldova, two motherless young women from opposite backgrounds meet and recognise a spark. Elina is the Boyar's (ruling nobility class) daughter while Mira is the peasant daughter of the village potter. Neither would expect friendship Based on a folktale that is well-known in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, this book was highly readable and undeniably interesting, but I found the pacing a little uneven. I can see why this story would have caught the interest of the author as a child. In medieval Moldova, two motherless young women from opposite backgrounds meet and recognise a spark. Elina is the Boyar's (ruling nobility class) daughter while Mira is the peasant daughter of the village potter. Neither would expect friendship to form, let alone anything more, but when Mira is rescued from a serious accident by the local wisewoman, visits from Elina give her the will to recover. Their relationship has many obstacles to overcome, but their love is strong. When all seems hopeless, the pair must consider a most unconventional deception if they want to be together. The obstacles actually litter the story quite liberally, and I think that contributes to the pacing issue. Many of them are quite dark - some shockingly so - and they are relentless. Still, it provides an interesting view of where Moldovan society has evolved from, particularly in relation to the status of women. I'm glad I read it and would recommend it to those who enjoy reimagined fairytales/folktales. The text includes some Romanian terms, many of which can be readily understood in context, but there is also a Glossary provided at the end of the book. With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy to read and review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Set in Stone is a lush page-turner about two women, Mira and Elina, who will steal your heart. I enjoyed every minute spent in medieval Moldova – from the adventure and romance to the chilling moment when I grasped the meaning of the title. This timely folktale will resonate with readers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vishy

    I discovered Stela Brinzeanu's 'Set in Stone' recently. The story looked beautiful and so I was excited to read it. It is the medieval ages. We are in Moldova. Elina is a young noblewoman. She lives with her father. Her mother has passed. One day she crosses paths with Mira. Mira is the potter's daughter who is hoping to become a potter herself one day. Magic happens. But this is the medieval ages. A woman falling in love with another woman and they both getting together is impossible. Also, thei I discovered Stela Brinzeanu's 'Set in Stone' recently. The story looked beautiful and so I was excited to read it. It is the medieval ages. We are in Moldova. Elina is a young noblewoman. She lives with her father. Her mother has passed. One day she crosses paths with Mira. Mira is the potter's daughter who is hoping to become a potter herself one day. Magic happens. But this is the medieval ages. A woman falling in love with another woman and they both getting together is impossible. Also, their social divide is impossible to bridge. What happens to them forms the rest of the story. At its core, 'Set in Stone' is a beautiful love story. But it is also much more than that. It depicts the lives of women in the middle ages and how everything was hard for them, how women who were healers were branded as witches, how people lived together as a community and helped each other out, the battle between different religions, the old and the new, how freedom was elusive whether one was poor or rich and how no one was truly free. At one point Elina asks her father, "What’s the use of all this if I can’t be free?" To which her father replies, "No one is really free, my dear. I’m at the behest of the voivode and he is a vassal of the Ottoman sultan, and so it goes. Real freedom doesn’t exist, and if it did, I’m not even sure we’d want it." I loved most of the characters in the book (except the bad ones). Most of the women characters were fascinating and inspiring because they defied the restrictions imposed on them and tried to break free and express themselves and live beautiful lives. Stela Brinzeanu's prose is soft and beautiful and brings that period alive. The conversations between Elina and Mira were cool and stylish and were such a pleasure to read. I loved 'Set in Stone'. This is the first ever book that I've read where the story is set in Moldova. Yay! 😊 I'm so happy about that! Stela Brinzeanu has written another book set in Moldova during contemporary times. I can't wait to read that! I'll leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book. "‘At the heart of any storm, whether it’s around or inside you, there’s a place of quiet like no other. When you find that place, you gain such strength that nobody could ever take that away from you." "She watches the snowflakes swarming outside, as if they are choosing where to settle. Who is she fooling? Of course it isn’t up to them where they end up. It’s the invisible wind that’s tossing them about, teasing them with the promise of free will." "Elina thinks how much easier it is to communicate with animals. They perceive the world in silence, and they’re never wrong. Words are useless tools if you’re digging for truth, she thinks. They lie, deceive and distort. Only in the absence of words can there be truth. That’s why people talk, because they have something to hide." "Home isn’t really someone’s hut or manor, she thinks, but the place where your loved one is waiting for you." Have you read 'Set in Stone'? What do you think about it?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jules K

    Thank you Net galley for sending me a copy of Set in stone in exchange for a honest review! To be completely honest this book was a bit disappointing. Mainly due to the pacing,since it felt like (tragic) events which led to major life changes took place immediately one after the other leaving no room for the reader to see the characters have a more meaningful reaction to them. The love story however is my main complain. It wasn't developed nearly enough untill the end of the book,and it felt like Thank you Net galley for sending me a copy of Set in stone in exchange for a honest review! To be completely honest this book was a bit disappointing. Mainly due to the pacing,since it felt like (tragic) events which led to major life changes took place immediately one after the other leaving no room for the reader to see the characters have a more meaningful reaction to them. The love story however is my main complain. It wasn't developed nearly enough untill the end of the book,and it felt like we missed out on the chance to see more courting and playful bander between the MC and her love interest

  6. 5 out of 5

    emma

    in medieval moldova, two women from opposing backgrounds fall in love. fall in love they do, but the lack of romantic development meant that my care for them was perhaps not as extreme as it could have been. there is some incredible storytelling here - the writing style was my favourite part of this - but again the lack of development was infuriating. i needed more on the characters and more of the romance to be truly captivated by what could have been a five-star story. historical fiction that in medieval moldova, two women from opposing backgrounds fall in love. fall in love they do, but the lack of romantic development meant that my care for them was perhaps not as extreme as it could have been. there is some incredible storytelling here - the writing style was my favourite part of this - but again the lack of development was infuriating. i needed more on the characters and more of the romance to be truly captivated by what could have been a five-star story. historical fiction that gives voices to forgotten women in history as two women fall in love should have had me hooked. unfortunately, it didn’t. thank you to netgalley and legend press for the arc!

  7. 4 out of 5

    charlotte,

    On my blog. Rep: sapphic mcs CWs: homophobia, ableism, anti Roma racism, rape, incest Galley provided by publisher To sum up Set in Stone in one word? Underdeveloped. This is a book that promised much, and ultimately delivered little. Set in medieval Moldova, this book follows two girls, one born to a rich man and one to a poorer craftsman. Tying them together is a woman accused of witchcraft. When I say that this book was underdeveloped, I mean it on every level, from the world to the characters On my blog. Rep: sapphic mcs CWs: homophobia, ableism, anti Roma racism, rape, incest Galley provided by publisher To sum up Set in Stone in one word? Underdeveloped. This is a book that promised much, and ultimately delivered little. Set in medieval Moldova, this book follows two girls, one born to a rich man and one to a poorer craftsman. Tying them together is a woman accused of witchcraft. When I say that this book was underdeveloped, I mean it on every level, from the world to the characters to the plot. None of it felt more than surface level and that, primarily, is what let this book down. Possibly the clearest example of this was the worldbuilding. But for a few Romanian words thrown in, the odd reference for a voivodeship, this could have been almost any pre-modern era in Europe. None of it tied it particularly to medieval Moldova. That, to me, was what made it especially boring—plot and characters I could have dealt with being light on, if I’d felt that there had been work put in to making the world come alive. As it was, a few Romanian words do not a world make. Second on my list would be the lack of development with the characters then. This is a book where it feels as though the two girls have two scenes together total before deciding they’re in love with one another. I know the stereotype is that lesbians move fast, but Jesus… The lack of fleshed-out-ness of the characters of course extends to the supporting cast, none of whom really come to life off the page. The underdevelopedness of the book leads to a blandness in the characters. Of the three, then, the plot actually comes out best. Scenes don’t feel too rushed, they’re mostly given time to breathe, and the plot itself is reasonably compelling (if possessing of a few too many tangents that it didn’t have time to deal with in depth). On the whole, this was not the issue I had. I would say, though, that this is a book where the bare bones are there. It just needed a fair bit more work on it to make it more than that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Thank you to NetGalley and Legend Press for allowing me to read this ARC! Content Warning: death, violence, murder, rape (on-page), homophobia, misogyny, victim-blaming, outdated racial terms, racism, drowning, incest. For more of my reviews, check out my blog! In medieval Moldova, Elina and Mira live totally separate lives. Elina is the wealthy daughter of a boyar, the aristocratic class that employ serfs and slaves, while Mira is a simple potter's daughter, used to going without a meal and trying Thank you to NetGalley and Legend Press for allowing me to read this ARC! Content Warning: death, violence, murder, rape (on-page), homophobia, misogyny, victim-blaming, outdated racial terms, racism, drowning, incest. For more of my reviews, check out my blog! In medieval Moldova, Elina and Mira live totally separate lives. Elina is the wealthy daughter of a boyar, the aristocratic class that employ serfs and slaves, while Mira is a simple potter's daughter, used to going without a meal and trying to fight off the cold. But when the two are inadvertently brought together, there's an immediate spark between them, and they begin to realize that, as women, their stations in life might not be so different after all. As they come to terms with their feelings for one another, Mira and Elina both will have to make the ultimate sacrifice to achieve freedom -- and the possibility of spending their lives together. Doesn't the premise for this book sound so great? Medieval Moldova is not a time nor place I've ever seen in another book, and it's a culture I'm not overly familiar with. Even more fascinating, the central relationship is between two women, and Set in Stone tackles many issues (some which we are, sadly, still facing today) over the course of Mira and Elina's journey. It saddens me to say I'm not able to give more than three stars here, though. For me, there were too many problems to bump this up to a full four stars. With that being said, let's delve into what worked for me, and what didn't. Firstly, Brinzeanu's writing style didn't click for me. It was a little too dry for my tastes, and when it wasn't, the similes felt strangely overwrought. There was more telling than showing, which grew a bit irritating over time. I wanted to actually feel as if I was experiencing the scenes, instead of being told of it secondhand. This problem persists throughout the novel, although I will say that the longer I read, the more acclimated to the style I became. Sadly, the characterization also struck me as a touch shallow. While I ended up loving both Elina and Mira, it took quite a while for it to actually feel as if you're seeing the events and emotions through their eyes. I also found the abrupt beginning to their relationship not only strangely paced, but I struggled with whether or not it made sense for young women of this time period and place. Personally speaking, I'm a huge fan of slow-burns, and I think there was more than enough time to work up to their relationship, and deepen it in the process. That being said, I did root for both of them, separately and together, and this book offers a beautiful (and harrowing) insight into Moldavian culture, religion, class, and, of course, the lives of Moldavian women. There are some beautiful moments, suffused with nature magic and the tenderness of love, but once again, the writing style kept you at such a distance that it was sometimes hard to admire them fully. One of my other issues concerns a (very one-dimensional) side character, Dafina. Dafina is a Romani slave, and in the brief instances where she interacts with Elina, she comes off as stereotypically "mysterious," reading palms and telling fortunes. Had she been more developed, it might've not been an issue, but otherwise, she serves little narrative purpose -- well, she does serve a purpose, but it would be a huge spoiler to say how. Let's just say that the purpose is to further Elina's journey, and otherwise, Dafina is just a walking stereotype, there to make cryptic comments and save Elina's hide. The slur commonly used against Romani people is also frequently found in this book. As I'm not Romani myself, I can't say whether or not this is offensive in its historical usage (considering Set in Stone takes place in the Middle Ages). I would love some input on this; all I'll say for now is be forewarned, and it did make me uncomfortable when I was reading it. Overall, I did like Set in Stone, but nothing about it blew me away. I'm not sure it's the kind of book that will stick with me for very long. If you're interested in the culture and the time period, I'd definitely say give it a shot, but as it stands, for me, this felt more like reading a screenplay. I will consider picking up whatever Brinzeanu writes next, however, as I imagine her second novel will improve upon the issues I've mentioned here!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Poppy

    Rating: 4.5 ⭐ Thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC free in exchange for an honest review I loved this! The medieval Moldovan setting was one I was unfamiliar with, but the author manages the world building so well that I was soon fully emerged. And, it's a forbidden sapphic romance, what's not to love? If I was going to give one issue, it would be that the pacing felt a bit off. A lot happens in this book, and it's not all explored in very much depth. Still, I read it in 2 days, and had a lot Rating: 4.5 ⭐ Thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC free in exchange for an honest review I loved this! The medieval Moldovan setting was one I was unfamiliar with, but the author manages the world building so well that I was soon fully emerged. And, it's a forbidden sapphic romance, what's not to love? If I was going to give one issue, it would be that the pacing felt a bit off. A lot happens in this book, and it's not all explored in very much depth. Still, I read it in 2 days, and had a lot of fun. I would definitely recommend

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marina Sofia

    A colourful, evocative insight into a particular time and place - and a reworking of one of the most famous Romanian legends. Full review to follow on my blog

  11. 5 out of 5

    fawns

    Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4,5 but let's round it up) Read the digital ARC between 28 april and 30 april. Special thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for my honest review. Summary Set in Stone is a reimagining of an Eastern European legend. However, rather than sticking to the original story, in her retelling Stela Brinzeanu seeks to give a voice to the women who have been silenced. And she has done well. This book tells the story of two Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu - ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4,5 but let's round it up) Read the digital ARC between 28 april and 30 april. Special thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for sharing this ARC with me in exchange for my honest review. Summary Set in Stone is a reimagining of an Eastern European legend. However, rather than sticking to the original story, in her retelling Stela Brinzeanu seeks to give a voice to the women who have been silenced. And she has done well. This book tells the story of two women from opposing backgrounds, who fall in love. In a society where a woman is less than a man and freedom always seems just out of reach, Mira and Elina fight for their lives, love, and happiness. Writing - 8/10 ⭐️ The writing isn't complex, but it is compelling. It was hard for me to put this book down and when I could not read, I found myself guessing at future events. The addition of Romanian words (glossary included!) made it a little bit tougher to read, but it made the book feel more authentic. Pace - 9/10 ⭐️ It's a relatively short book, so naturally, it will be more fast-paced. At times, the romance felt too quick. However, many stories we all know and love follow a similar approach. Yes, it was fast. But to me, it did not feel like a rushed and ridiculous case of insta-love. For this story, it was just right. Despite the story being more fast-paced, it did not feel rushed at all and events followed each other logically. Plot - 10/10⭐️ Personally, I do not read a lot of books that are set in medieval times, so this was refreshing. Despite the book being a reimaging of a legend, I don't know a lot about Eastern Europe and its stories. Since I am not familiar with the original legend, several plot points came as a complete surprise. However, none of the twists were so far-fetched that the story no longer made sense. I'm not sure how much of the plot is original and how much is a spin on the legend, but I loved it. Characters - 7/10 ⭐️ At first, the characters seemed a bit flat and I struggled to keep their storylines separate. This got better after the first 30-40 pages. There were some moments of secondhand embarrassment for Elina, who is clearly a product of being raised in a wealthy family. The characters grew, learned about other perspectives, about the world and themselves. And I sure appreciate growth (especially in relatively short books). My favorite side characters are probably Rozalia and The Old Cobzar. Enjoyability - 10/10⭐️ This book was great. The story was compelling, the plot was exciting and the characters were fun. I would definitely recommend this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    India (IndiaReadsALot)

    DNF @ 50% I never normally rate my dnfs but I do feel this deserved a rating. I enjoyed this book but I felt that something was missing from the romance. The romance to me lacked any real set up. One minute they meet, then they kiss and suddenly they start making serious plans. When reading this I felt that I had missed something, none of this was explained or explored. I felt that loads of stuff that happened off-page should have been shown. Especially on Elina's side of the romance. Everything el DNF @ 50% I never normally rate my dnfs but I do feel this deserved a rating. I enjoyed this book but I felt that something was missing from the romance. The romance to me lacked any real set up. One minute they meet, then they kiss and suddenly they start making serious plans. When reading this I felt that I had missed something, none of this was explained or explored. I felt that loads of stuff that happened off-page should have been shown. Especially on Elina's side of the romance. Everything else was really engaging but I just wasn't really connected to the romance.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kamilė

    "Words are useless tools if you're digging for truth, she thinks. They lie, deceive, and distort. Only in the absence of words can there be truth. That's why people talk, because they have something to hide." Strong trigger warnings for rape, incest, and anti-Roma racism/xenophobia. I think at this point it's safe to say that this book is the biggest disappointment of the year. The premise is intriguing and I was interested in based on the premise. Admittedly, I only learned some more about Moldov "Words are useless tools if you're digging for truth, she thinks. They lie, deceive, and distort. Only in the absence of words can there be truth. That's why people talk, because they have something to hide." Strong trigger warnings for rape, incest, and anti-Roma racism/xenophobia. I think at this point it's safe to say that this book is the biggest disappointment of the year. The premise is intriguing and I was interested in based on the premise. Admittedly, I only learned some more about Moldova and the country's history this year, given the rising tensions and the war taking place right there, so an opportunity to learn more about the country's history and legends through a sapphic story seemed ideal. Unfortunately, this ended up being very reminiscent of my experience reading "The Reckless Kind" by Carly Heath, down to the never-ending trauma lasagna. I was ready to DNF "Set in Stone" not even halfway through, and I don't necessarily regret getting to the end, but I wish it had been a better book. Some of the things that made me relive the pace of reading "The Reckless Kind" were: 1. A protagonist that suffers an injury, leading to a physical disability; 2. Inconsistent pace and time-skipping; 3. The conflict of christianity vs. paganism; 4. The aforementioned trauma lasagna – a small good thing happens, followed by a series of miseries, because you know what misery loves? Given the amount of Misery™, it's quite hard to determine the reader's level or intended audience. The writing style felt quite YA, yet not even 50 pages in you're hit with an on-page rape/incest scene, which reoccurs later on in the book. After a while, it's possible to pretty much predict whether the chapter will be a short moment to breathe or another tragedy that bestows the protagonists. (view spoiler)[I do think that Elina having a chance to get revenge on her rapist, and the way she did it, was well-executed. She's proven to be a good shot, particularly when it comes to aiming at birds, such as cocks. (hide spoiler)] On top of that, it doesn't feel rewarding at the end. A few plot lines (one of which, (view spoiler)[regarding the church builder whose name I can't even recall (hide spoiler)] , seems pretty important given the circumstances) disappear, and the final chapters just... fizzle out. While the writing style didn't really work for me, I think Elina and Mira were distinguishable enough where their POVs didn't feel overly similar. They had different upbringings and beliefs which impacted their thoughts and decisions. Their skills were well-utilised, though I have some issues with some of Elina's latter chapters. Speaking of Elina and Mira, other reviews weren't kidding about the instalove being /very/ instant. However, it creates a strange situation where they're in love so suddenly yet they spend most of the time apart, making they feelings heavily "tell" and barely "show". It's hard to root for them when they practically don't know each other. It made more sense on Elina's end – in her interactions with strangers, she seems overly trusting and somewhat naïve. With Mira, it's a little less believable. More on-page interactions—actual interactions, not mere hints of the short time they spent around Rozalia—would've made Mira's inner conflict more believable. There are issues with the treatment of Roma characters in the book. The word g*psy is thrown around constantly, and the characters fall into stereotypes. Other reviewers have done a better job describing these issues. This is a small gripe, but the historical setting is also somewhat confusing. There aren't really strong indicators of time or place (though some Moldovan words are sprinkled throughout the text and a couple of villages are named). Additionally, the book is described as set in "medieval Moldova". However, in a comment on Goodreads, Brinzeanu said that it was set in the 17th century. Overall, "Set in Stone" is, sadly, a great concept in theory that fell short on its execution. Thanks to NetGalley and Legend Press for the access.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stela Brinzeanu

    Dear Reader, Set in Stone is a reimagining of an ancient Moldovan legend*, with a variety of different renderings in countries across Eastern Europe and throughout the Balkans. Yet each and every version has the same cruel, controlling and demeaning fate for the woman at the centre of the story. As history – ancient and more recent – demonstrates, it is often not those at the heart of things who get the opportunity to speak up and be heard. However, those who have the power – they are the ones who Dear Reader, Set in Stone is a reimagining of an ancient Moldovan legend*, with a variety of different renderings in countries across Eastern Europe and throughout the Balkans. Yet each and every version has the same cruel, controlling and demeaning fate for the woman at the centre of the story. As history – ancient and more recent – demonstrates, it is often not those at the heart of things who get the opportunity to speak up and be heard. However, those who have the power – they are the ones who tell the story. Mira and Elina, the two main protagonists, represent the women in my culture who were (and many still are) enslaved by domesticity, robbing them of their rights, desires, opportunities and ultimately their lives. With almost no control over their destinies, women were used to serve their men’s narrative. I wished for my heroines a life they could have chosen for themselves, outside the cultural, societal and religious pressures of the time. I sought to give a voice and a choice to the women who have been silenced. These thoughts percolated around my subconscious for many years until 2015 when I wrote the initial version of what has ultimately become Set in Stone. After five more years of writing and re-writing, Cari Rosen, the commissioning editor at Legend Press (and an author herself) offered me a book deal, saying they loved the fact that even though the novel is set so long ago (17th century Moldova), the themes are still so identifiable today. Cari was spot on, unfortunately, given the sexism, prejudice and the erosion of women’s rights we face even now in the 21st century. The reality is even more depressing in developing countries, such as Moldova, where a variety of socio-economic, religious and cultural factors mean many women face exactly the same challenges their ancestors did in the Middle Ages. And here lies the paradox of my complex love-hate relationship with the culture I was raised in. On one hand I treasure it, not least for instilling in me a deep love for nature, for giving me a strong connection to the land as has been practised and preserved for centuries, for bestowing on me the benefits of growing and cooking my own food, for sharing the wisdom of healing with herbs and kind words, for teaching me the importance and strength of a tight-knit community. On the other hand, I abhor the deep-rooted patterns of behaviour towards our women, which are as damaging as ever. Old sayings and proverbs justifying violence against women are invoked time and again by fathers, husbands, brothers and uncles alike: An unbeaten woman is like an unswept house. An unbeaten woman is like an ungroomed horse. An unbeaten woman is like an unlocked mill. Despite this toxic environment, I was surrounded by strong women, starting with my own mother, followed by teachers, aunties, neighbours – women whose resilience towards the unfair and misogynistic world of post-communist Moldova reminded me of those stubborn, life-loving plants you see sprouting miraculously between the tiniest cracks of stone. This quality, I believe isn’t arbitrary, but evidence of the creativity, resourcefulness and tenacity our women have demonstrated across centuries, which has gone unnoticed and unheard because their voices have been denied. Women have been absent in politics, in literature and in the history of my country. Silent, obedient shadows, sturdy scaffolds useful to our men, the higher to climb and the louder to trumpet their convenient truth. Things are changing slowly. I take great pride in the fact that we now have a woman leading Moldova, one who is committed to fighting corruption, patriarchy and Russian control in order to drag Moldova out of poverty and stagnation. There is still a very long way to go**, with many social, economic and political reforms required in order to bring the country into the 21st century. But perhaps far more important are the educational reforms desperately needed to break the old, dangerous and detrimental patterns of behaviour towards women that are so deeply entrenched in the Moldovan psyche. A free society is one where every story has the opportunity to be told and until women and minorities in Moldova – especially sexual minorities – are heard and acknowledged, I’ve taken matters into my own hands by giving my mythical heroine the agency I feel she deserves. *I’m deliberately withholding the name of the legend in order to avoid spoilers. You may find, upon reading Set in Stone, that you have a similar myth in your own culture. **I could not have published this book in Moldova, which remains a heavily patriarchal, hetero-normative culture, not least because of the sway the Orthodox Church has over Moldovan public opinion.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Set In Stone is the first novel I have read by a Moldovan author. It is historical fiction inspired by a traditional folktale which gives it a fairytale vibe, but with a modern feminist angle. I think Stela Brinzeanu's writing would strongly appeal to fans of Angela Carter and Naomi Novik. I loved spending time with the two leading characters - one, Mira, a potter's daughter, the other, Elina, the privileged daughter of the Boyar. Both their See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Set In Stone is the first novel I have read by a Moldovan author. It is historical fiction inspired by a traditional folktale which gives it a fairytale vibe, but with a modern feminist angle. I think Stela Brinzeanu's writing would strongly appeal to fans of Angela Carter and Naomi Novik. I loved spending time with the two leading characters - one, Mira, a potter's daughter, the other, Elina, the privileged daughter of the Boyar. Both their fathers encourage their daughters in ways that were frowned upon - Mira learning the potter's arts and Elina being taught how to hunt - yet we see how, despite their surface differences, the girls' lives were similarly constrained by social customs and traditions. In fact, the only truly free character seemed to be herbalist Rozalia, but of course medieval Moldova, in common with the rest of Europe, wasn't a good time to be an independent, self-educated woman! I was impressed with how Brinzeanu portrays the burgeoning relationship between Elina and Mira. Set In Stone isn't a romance novel per se, and the emphasis on a growing friendship between these women made their later love all the more poignant. The story has hints of magical realism as well a superstitious beliefs which persist despite the overwhelming power of the local church. I was intrigued to see owls viewed as a harbinger of death as I came across this same belief not so long ago in a Zambian novel, The Mourning Bird by Mubanga Kalimamukwento. The life of Elina and Mira's village takes a darker turn after an owl is heard and Set In Stone does have a couple of pretty horrific scenes. It's not that they're too graphically written, but imagining what happens, especially knowing that these things really did happen back then, makes the events all the more disturbing. I enjoyed Set In Stone as a novel which gave me insights into historical Moldova and her people, particularly the way in which Brinzeanu tells this patriarchal story through the eyes an experiences of the women at its heart. A story that previously would have been about a rich man having a church built for him becomes so much deeper when viewed from the perspectives of the women who were meant to be subjugated at various points. I believe that Set In Stone is Brinzeanu's first novel and, on the strength of this book, I'm very keen to see what she writes next.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC for my review. A quick summary: set in Medieval Eastern Europe, two women of different classes (the daughter of a nobleman and a potter’s daughter) meet and fall in love. They must each undergo their own journey to find each other again. —— The world building is great, presented in simple and graspable language. I like the Romanian terms (even if I have to look them up- I didn’t find the glossary until I finished the book, so it would have been helpful to know that i Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC for my review. A quick summary: set in Medieval Eastern Europe, two women of different classes (the daughter of a nobleman and a potter’s daughter) meet and fall in love. They must each undergo their own journey to find each other again. —— The world building is great, presented in simple and graspable language. I like the Romanian terms (even if I have to look them up- I didn’t find the glossary until I finished the book, so it would have been helpful to know that it was there). The dialogue feels quite formal but reflective of the time for the most part, though sometimes there’s a bit of a disconnect between it and the time period of the setting. The characters feel pretty fleshed out and very distinct from one another, even the smaller side characters. That being said, I wasn’t convinced by the development of the relationship. Elina refers to them as “close friends” and they do spend a good amount of time together past the first few chapters, but I didn’t feel like enough time or depth was given to their romantic relationship beyond that to lead to the eventual conclusion. I suppose the time that the characters spend apart probably increased their longing for one another, but I didn’t feel particularly engaged in their story as a pair of lovers. Both arcs were interesting enough to keep me reading. I liked the overall theme of questioning what a woman’s place was in Medieval times. As the characters went through their journeys, it made me think about how certain events would be reacted to today and how things have or haven’t changed. I also wonder how historically accurate this novel is in its portrayal of the events that take place. Overall, it was an enjoyable read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    aimee

    Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review! Another lovely addition to the queer historical fiction shelves! Set in Stone has a pace that feels comfortable and familiar, and the writing is well done while not flowery. The twists are obvious, but in a way to makes it seem as though even though it’s your first read, you’re revisiting a world and story you already love. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, and found it cozy and inviting, with characters who are easy to Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review! Another lovely addition to the queer historical fiction shelves! Set in Stone has a pace that feels comfortable and familiar, and the writing is well done while not flowery. The twists are obvious, but in a way to makes it seem as though even though it’s your first read, you’re revisiting a world and story you already love. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel, and found it cozy and inviting, with characters who are easy to love, and some that are just as easy to hate.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Romie

    unfortunately, this book did not work for me. the present tense writing style threw me off from the very beginning and the use of modern language at times simply kept taking me out of the story. I found the characters under-developed and their romance unconvincing. the concept of the book itself is interesting: how women have been robbed of their achievements throughout history, but the execution was poor. (2.10) TW: ableism, rape, incest, racism (especially against Roma people), racial slurs, sl unfortunately, this book did not work for me. the present tense writing style threw me off from the very beginning and the use of modern language at times simply kept taking me out of the story. I found the characters under-developed and their romance unconvincing. the concept of the book itself is interesting: how women have been robbed of their achievements throughout history, but the execution was poor. (2.10) TW: ableism, rape, incest, racism (especially against Roma people), racial slurs, slavery, victim blaming

  19. 4 out of 5

    thebookconfessions

    Based on a folktale, set in medieval Moldova, two women from different backgrounds fall in love. I really didn't see this book coming, from the gorgeous storytelling, beautiful atmosphere, to the strong inspiring female leads and the topics it explores, I was consumed and finished this one in a day. It was such a rich vivid and romantic read I didn't know I needed. I'd given it all the stars if the romantic part of the story was a bit more developed but that aside, absolutely beautiful. Based on a folktale, set in medieval Moldova, two women from different backgrounds fall in love. I really didn't see this book coming, from the gorgeous storytelling, beautiful atmosphere, to the strong inspiring female leads and the topics it explores, I was consumed and finished this one in a day. It was such a rich vivid and romantic read I didn't know I needed. I'd given it all the stars if the romantic part of the story was a bit more developed but that aside, absolutely beautiful.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Grace Burke

    I'm surprised by how much I ended up loving this book. Brinzeanu brings to life a medieval Moldovian story she grew up hearing. Two girls, one royalty, the other a peasant, fall in love against all odds. This story is about loss and growth and hope and fighting for your loved ones. It wasn't my favorite writing style, but it worked nonetheless. I loved many of the characters and Brinzeanu kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The ending pleasantly surprised me, too. tw rape I'm surprised by how much I ended up loving this book. Brinzeanu brings to life a medieval Moldovian story she grew up hearing. Two girls, one royalty, the other a peasant, fall in love against all odds. This story is about loss and growth and hope and fighting for your loved ones. It wasn't my favorite writing style, but it worked nonetheless. I loved many of the characters and Brinzeanu kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. The ending pleasantly surprised me, too. tw rape

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Overall, I liked the plot of "Set in Stone". The idea was interesting and I liked Mina's arc. My main problem was that the romantic connection between the protagonists felt rushed and underdeveloped. There were a lot of ideas introduced and just kind of developed off-screen, so I didn't really feel invested in the characters as much as I could have been. Overall, I liked the plot of "Set in Stone". The idea was interesting and I liked Mina's arc. My main problem was that the romantic connection between the protagonists felt rushed and underdeveloped. There were a lot of ideas introduced and just kind of developed off-screen, so I didn't really feel invested in the characters as much as I could have been.

  22. 5 out of 5

    emma

    Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc of Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu. I loved the historical witchcraft like aspects of this book, it’s an amazing setting and so underrated! The romance was cute but I felt a little disappointed by it because there were only like 4 romantic scenes and the rest of the time was just Elina worrying about Mira. There was a total lack of development and wasted potential. I would still recommend this if you’re looking for sapphic historical romance but Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc of Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu. I loved the historical witchcraft like aspects of this book, it’s an amazing setting and so underrated! The romance was cute but I felt a little disappointed by it because there were only like 4 romantic scenes and the rest of the time was just Elina worrying about Mira. There was a total lack of development and wasted potential. I would still recommend this if you’re looking for sapphic historical romance but I would advise looking at a trigger warning list beforehand. I have rated this book 3 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tawny

    From the first sentence, I was hooked. Brinzeanu masterly weaves her words into a deeply lush, magical story, that, save for the sapphic romance, reads like so many beloved folktales we all know. I really enjoyed the attention to detail in style itself. Folk tales were often cautionary tales. They may have had adventure and romance, but sprinkled throughout are lots of moments of reality, lessons for the audience take note of, and much like classic tales, this story is weighted with topics that From the first sentence, I was hooked. Brinzeanu masterly weaves her words into a deeply lush, magical story, that, save for the sapphic romance, reads like so many beloved folktales we all know. I really enjoyed the attention to detail in style itself. Folk tales were often cautionary tales. They may have had adventure and romance, but sprinkled throughout are lots of moments of reality, lessons for the audience take note of, and much like classic tales, this story is weighted with topics that have impacted women for centuries- and still do. The story pacing takes it’s time. The characters and scenery are fleshed out in detail, which I absolutely loved. But the second half picked up a bit more and ultimately I was compelled to stay up deep into the night to finish it. Although the novel is historical fiction, Elina & Mira’s individual stories, and their love story are timely, and relatable. I circle back to my comments about folktales being cautionary tales. Whether it’s Medieval Moldova, or modern day America/UK/wherever- women’s lives are still being *ahem* guided (I’ll choose a nice word here I guess), by historic and social confines and as the saying goes, “history repeats itself”. Brinzeanu gives us the hope that your identity, your story can just maybe be changed. Absolutely a 5 star read. Thank you NetGalley & the publisher for this eARC in exchange for my review.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kate Southey

    I loved this book which, inspired by a Moldovan folk story maintained an atmosphere shared by folk tales of many European countries. Sharp woodsmoke pierces a frosty evening and witches live in clearings in woods. By creating a full narrative and fleshing out the characters in her tale Brinzeanu gives us the tools to look again at al the stories we know so well from our childhoods. A witch? Or a herbalist and naturopath? The principal boy in English pantomimes being played traditionally by a gir I loved this book which, inspired by a Moldovan folk story maintained an atmosphere shared by folk tales of many European countries. Sharp woodsmoke pierces a frosty evening and witches live in clearings in woods. By creating a full narrative and fleshing out the characters in her tale Brinzeanu gives us the tools to look again at al the stories we know so well from our childhoods. A witch? Or a herbalist and naturopath? The principal boy in English pantomimes being played traditionally by a girl, theatrical convention or shedding light on a practice that was common in every town and city? After all, the way women were subjugated and risked their lives to bear children surely many of them decided to try a disguise and a new reality. Everything about this book worked for me, the characterisation was very strong from the smallest role to that of its protagonists Elina and Mira. I felt for both women as their family loyalties and belief systems were challenged over and over. The scene setting was also beautifully done. I have a clear mental image of Elina’s home, Mira’s and Rozalia’s hovel and her private space. I could smell food cooking, feel the cold of the nun’s cell and feel the hot breath of Elina’s horse. The pacing of the novel was also spot on for me. A gentle first half and then it took off, gathering pace and excitement and causing me to write this review at 1:45am because it wouldn’t let me put it down and go to sleep! While there were parts I could predict it didn’t matter, I just wanted to be there when those predictions came to pass. I will be recommending this book to as many people as I can!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Joanne

    Set in Stone is the debut novel from Stela Brinzeanu and can we just take a minute to admire that beautiful cover? The physical copy shimmers and there are so many elements of the story reflected in the illustrations on the cover. Set in Stone is an entrancing story exploring customs and rituals, healing, beliefs and ancient wisdom. In this mediaeval Moldovan society, women do not have much agency and many are feared. It’s a reimagining of an Eastern European legend and certainly has that mystica Set in Stone is the debut novel from Stela Brinzeanu and can we just take a minute to admire that beautiful cover? The physical copy shimmers and there are so many elements of the story reflected in the illustrations on the cover. Set in Stone is an entrancing story exploring customs and rituals, healing, beliefs and ancient wisdom. In this mediaeval Moldovan society, women do not have much agency and many are feared. It’s a reimagining of an Eastern European legend and certainly has that mystical, folklore feel about it. Elina is of noble birth and an only daughter, but as a daughter she cannot inherit her father’s estate unless she can be legally recognised as a son. Mira is the potter’s daughter and a potter herself until an accident makes that almost impossible. Without skills, how will she survive? Rozalia is the wise woman, the one who knows how to use plants and herbs to heal. As you can imagine, although her wisdom and knowledge is much in demand, she has to tread a fine line so as not to be accused of witchcraft. These three women were such interesting characters to read about. They all faced significant challenges and danger but showed their strength and courage when it mattered. Stela Brinzeanu paints a vivid picture of this historical period. It’s a time of fear and suspicion, of mistrust of anything that could be construed as witchcraft. It was certainly a dangerous time to be a woman. I enjoyed reading about the three women’s resourcefulness and resilience in standing up to a patriarchal society. There’s a fascinating exploration about gender roles in that society which really could be equally relevant today. I was caught up in this magical story and transported to mediaeval Europe. Set in Stone is is beautifully written, full of colour and imagery and a real feast for the senses.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu. Thank you to Netgallery for an ARC for an unbiased review. My husband and I love Romania and visit it as often as possible. We love the myths, legends and history, and find ourselves trying to learn what we can about it all, including the tied history to Moldova. We are an LGBTQA household (both as Bisexual, he is trans). I love historical fiction, particularly if it revolves around myths and legends, folklore etc. The synopsis for this book was right up my street Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu. Thank you to Netgallery for an ARC for an unbiased review. My husband and I love Romania and visit it as often as possible. We love the myths, legends and history, and find ourselves trying to learn what we can about it all, including the tied history to Moldova. We are an LGBTQA household (both as Bisexual, he is trans). I love historical fiction, particularly if it revolves around myths and legends, folklore etc. The synopsis for this book was right up my street. As to be expected of a book of this kind and era, there are TW for a few things. Not least homophobia, rape and incest. Although most isn't graphic, you should skip this book if you feel it could be an issue. There are definite pros and cons for me with this book. The basis of the story came through extremely well. Much of the background is one you can find within other European Women's stories of the time in one guise or another. And further afield too. So in some regards it isn't unique or unsurprising. Yet this managed to still feel fresh and engaging. The characterisation was solid. I felt each character within the settings were clearly allowed to show who they were. The biggest let down for me was the romantic component and that lack of development between Mira and Elina. It felt almost too neatly packaged I guess is how I'd term it. I also felt at times at the start the pacing was a little slow for them. I will say though as the book got into the final 3rd, that pacing was rectified and it was a strong finish to the book. If I had to sum that aspect up, I'd say the author has no problem bringing us a folktale we can understand. Or even in general the characters within that. But fitting in a romantic component is where she faltered somewhat. I definitely feel the; this is a debut novel vibe. But despite this I'd certainly read future publications by the author. The book was strong enough for me to delve in again. I'm vying though on how to rate it. One part of me feels a 3 out of 5 stars fits, but another thinks it deserves 4 stars for a lot of the development and story arc as a whole. So I'm allowing it 4 out of 5 stars. If Historical Queer lit is your thing, especially if Folktale/Folklore based, then certainly give this a try. Or if it is something you've wanted to try but always felt a little daunted by it, then this book is definitely a great jumping off point.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Flockton

    I had the pleasure of reading this e-Advanced Reader Copy of Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu thanks to @netgalley This novel is inspired by Romanian folklore which definitely drew me in! This novel is set in medieval Moldova. It tells the story of two women from opposing backgrounds who fall in love 🧡 They are stuck in a time where a woman's role is defined by a patriarchal society, owing to a combination of class, religion, law, and their families. The closer they become the more sacrifices they I had the pleasure of reading this e-Advanced Reader Copy of Set in Stone by Stela Brinzeanu thanks to @netgalley This novel is inspired by Romanian folklore which definitely drew me in! This novel is set in medieval Moldova. It tells the story of two women from opposing backgrounds who fall in love 🧡 They are stuck in a time where a woman's role is defined by a patriarchal society, owing to a combination of class, religion, law, and their families. The closer they become the more sacrifices they have to make to defy expectations... What I liked 👍 ● The world building was really good and done in a easy to follow way. ● I loved the aspects of Romanian culture we gained insight on. ● The character development was really enjoyable & each had their own unique personality. ● The dialogue felt believable for the era. What I wasn't keen on 😭 ● I loved the characters friendship... I kinda wanted to see a bit more romantic development in their relationship, but I suppose the lack of explicit development connects more to the era. 💭 Overall, I loved the overall theme of women defying expectations... and how it connects to modern society. Rating ~ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️. 5/5

  28. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Feneley

    Wow, just wow. This book was amazing. It has everything that I'm looking for in a historical fiction, and more. For me, one of the highlights of this book was the setting. I've never read a book set in medieval Moldova before, and as a history fiend I loved the insights into Moldovan culture and history at that time. The other highlight was the characters. Set in Stone is very much a character-driven book (there is a plot, of course, but the characters are key). At first I wasn't sure about the Wow, just wow. This book was amazing. It has everything that I'm looking for in a historical fiction, and more. For me, one of the highlights of this book was the setting. I've never read a book set in medieval Moldova before, and as a history fiend I loved the insights into Moldovan culture and history at that time. The other highlight was the characters. Set in Stone is very much a character-driven book (there is a plot, of course, but the characters are key). At first I wasn't sure about the characters, but I gradually came to adore them. By the end I was cheering for them, utterly enthralled by their journey. This is one of those books that will stick with me for a while I think. I absolutely loved it, and can't wait to see what else Stela Brinzeanu writes!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    Thank you Legend Press and NetGalley for my eARC! I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this novel and I found it to exceed my expectations. Both Elina and Mira were well written and overall relatable young women. I really liked the glimpse into medieval Maldova, a world I knew very little about. There were a few moments that got very dark that I was surprised by. I felt the author did a good job depicting those but at times felt they could have been fleshed out a bit more. Overall found the st Thank you Legend Press and NetGalley for my eARC! I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this novel and I found it to exceed my expectations. Both Elina and Mira were well written and overall relatable young women. I really liked the glimpse into medieval Maldova, a world I knew very little about. There were a few moments that got very dark that I was surprised by. I felt the author did a good job depicting those but at times felt they could have been fleshed out a bit more. Overall found the story to be thrilling and kept me emotionally invested. I read it in a day and I definitely wanted to know if Elina and Mira got together. A great depiction of strong women striving for independence. Would definitely pick up another book by Brinzeanu. #SetinStone #NetGalley

  30. 5 out of 5

    beverley ♡

    thank you legend press for the arc! we follow two girls, elina and mira both from different backgrounds and walks of life who end up falling in love with eachother. elina and mira are both very different characters, and i felt they complimented each other well in terms of personalities and their views of the world. i surprisingly really liked inclusion of spirituality and the various discussions of religion. i think the author did an amazing job showcasing the reality of how women who didn’t conf thank you legend press for the arc! we follow two girls, elina and mira both from different backgrounds and walks of life who end up falling in love with eachother. elina and mira are both very different characters, and i felt they complimented each other well in terms of personalities and their views of the world. i surprisingly really liked inclusion of spirituality and the various discussions of religion. i think the author did an amazing job showcasing the reality of how women who didn’t conform were treated in a time period such as this, and hiding their true identities to get by. this book was a woman’s story, and i throughly enjoyed the feminist aspects to it. the plot was engaging and i liked following the character’s journeys i love my slow burn romance arcs, and i just wish there was a little more pining from both of the characters as i felt the relationship developed a bit too quickly. i also would’ve loved just a bit more detail and development in certain areas of the plot as there were a few side stories i would’ve loved to see fleshed out.

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