Ambling Along
the Aqueduct

The Cascadia
Subduction Zone

The Aqueduct Bulletin

Subscribe to our

Catalog for 2021

Our Mission


PO Box 95787
Seattle, WA 98145-2787

The Stone Boatmen

by Sarah Tolmie

$20 (paperback)
$9.95 (e-book) EPUB
 Add to Cart
MOBI (Kindle)
 Add to Cart

Read a sample from the book.

Shortlisted for the 2014 Crawford Award
A Locus Recommended First Novel for 2014

"Certain imaginative novels never best-sell, yet remain alive, a singular treasure to each new generation that finds them—books such as Islandia, The Worm Ouroboros, Gormenghast. The Stone Boatmen has the makings of one of these quiet classics. It is lucid yet complex. Its strangeness fascinates, captivates. To read it is to find yourself in a country a long, long way from home, taken on a unforeseeable journey—and when it's over, you wish you were still there. "
   — Ursula K. Le Guin

Tolmie tells a tale of three cities, separated by oceans, lost to one another long ago: the first, the city of rituals, of ceremonies; the second, the city of words, of poetry; and the third, the city of the golden birds, of dreams. In their harbors stand the stone boatmen, pointing outward toward the unknown. Now the birds are fostering a new-found relationship of the three cities of the ancestors, and the voyages of the ship Aphelion and its crew are beginning to rebuild the links.


Whether or not The Stone Boatmen is but a dream remains for the reader to decide, but this I can say: this is a novel that will remain long in my mind, because of the quality of the storytelling and the ideas it explores. I cannot recall reading anything quite like it in recent years. It is perhaps a little early in the reading year to say this but I am sure already that it will be one of my books of 2014. (Read the whole review.)
—Maureen Kincaid Speller, Strange Horizons, May 2014

...a powerfully original first novel...At any moment, beauty may strike with random grace, and unpretentious little details evoke the sense of wonder. Reading The Stone Boatmen feels as natural as breathing, but you can't take anything for granted.
—Faren Miller, Locus, April 2014

In Tolmie's novel, writing becomes a holy act, temple birds carry an ancient grief, and statues that never move are eerily alive. You will want to find such places once you've finished reading this remarkable novel.
—Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post, March 18, 2014

The voyages of the ship Aphelion reconnect three isolated cities whose shared past is an enigma of half-understood relics and myth. Tolmie gently guides the reader through a winding thread of linked relationships that span decades as each generation rediscovers infatuation, love and hate, grief, and joy; what could be mere grand inhuman spectacles of epic historical processes are firmly rooted in individual friendships, romances, and bitter feuds that add a vital human dimension. Tolmie's prose is addictive, "a feast of words burning bright against the dark," drawing the reader into the subtle tale. Intimacy is favored over flashy action, contemplation over bold speeches. This unique little gem eludes comparison to other works, and discerning readers will count themselves lucky to discover it. (Apr.)
Publishers Weekly, Feb 17, 2014 (starred review)

ISBN: 978-1-61976-027-1 (13 digit)
Publication Date: Feb 2014
paperback 312 pages