Heartstone was a book that I wanted as soon as I saw and read about it. Pride and Prejudice told from a world populated with wyverns, dragons and warriors. Why would you not want this book? After all, it is a truth, universally acknowledged, that all stories can be improved with the addition of a dragon!
So, when I say this is a retelling, I really do mean that it follows along very similar lines to Pride and Prejudice but with relevant twists to accommodate the different world. This is a very strong fantasy world, with no shortage of critters adorning the pages. As we open the story we are introduced to Aliza Bentaine, she’s in the garden conversing with a hobgoblin called Tobble when an unexpected Rider, astride his dragon, makes his grand entrance! As you can see, this is quite far from Ms Austen’s polite period drama – I’m sure no self respecting dragon would land in Ms Bennett’s garden without first being introduced! As introductions go I loved this one, the Rider is Daired – a rather handsome warrior from one of the upper crust families. Of course, he makes rather a poor impression on Aliza as he introduces himself in a rather contemptuous way and then proceeds to kick the hobgoblin across the garden – an action that rewards him with a mud fight with the rest of Tobble’s outraged clan. As you can see, Aliza and Daired make rather a poor first impression upon each other and yet that opening scene really did catch my attention and make me smile.
Anyway, to the main thrust of the story. Merybourne Manor is running amok with vicious gryphons and people are afraid to walk out. Riders have been hired to rid the county of the horde and Daired is the first to appear, shortly followed by the rest of his team including Master Brysney and his sister. It soon appears that Master Brysney has hired the nearby Lodge for his sister and friend Daired and of course everyone is anxious to make their acquaintance.
If you’ve read any Austen you will of course immediately recognise the above scene, and for that matter, plenty of the scenes that follow. Being a lover of Austen, and Pride and Prejudice in particular, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this but to my pleasant surprise I enjoyed it enormously. Whilst the plot follows many of the key scenes of P&P the author brings a new element to every one of them which isn’t surprising given the nature of the world here. She lends the book her own style, she doesn’t imitate Austen’s language or try to recreate that of the Regency period but brings a certain modern element to the story that I think readers will really enjoy. She reintroduces to us Lizzy and Darcy in the form of Aliza and Daired and she makes us fall in love with both of them as we watch them head butt their way along an inevitable path and on top of that she brings a very entertaining fantasy element that definitely adds the wow factor.
In terms of characters. We have all the usual characters, renamed, but quite easy to spot. Aliza is very easy to like and she carries the majority of the story really easily. Daired is the handsome and dashing warrior. You’d expect to be swooning over him but of course at first he’s incredibly arrogant and not a little boorish! The rest of the characters have all been given a slightly different injection of life which I found really refreshing to be honest, for example, the insufferable cousin is actually made likeable here (not perfect perhaps, but definitely likeable). I really liked that the author has given the characters slightly different character traits.
The world building is very easy to become accustomed to and manages to blend quite easily the Regency period whilst allowing the characters within to have slightly more freedom in terms of dress sense and behaviour that would need to be accommodated in a world like this. For example the girls wear trousers when they’re horse riding – seems sensible after all, but they still love to dress up for the ball. Girls can also become apprentices and can train to become warriors themselves. Again this brings a much more modern aspect to the story in spite of the period setting and is a little more relaxed in terms of the expected behaviour of the time.
The plot. Well, it starts off as a band of riders being hired to rid the county of Gryphons but it soon becomes apparent that a much bigger threat is looming on the horizon. A deadly foe that will have all the other nasty critters flocking to it’s cause and running wild across the countryside leaving death and destruction in it’s wake. I enjoyed the plot and the fast paced grand finale. More than that though I enjoyed the storyline between the main characters, in fact to be honest I think the plot could probably have been tamed down a little and I would have enjoyed it equally.
I haven’t really mentioned the dragons yet have I! My favourite was Akarra. The dragons here form a kind of bond with their rider. They choose each other and taken an oath and the absolute winning element for me was that that dragons talk – I loved that!
So, any criticisms from me. Not really. There were certain elements that felt a little bit clunky in terms of blending the period aspects with the rough and ready nature of dragons and warriors – for example, one particular scene which involves a dinner and two dragons also sat in the dining room eating their dinner at the same time. I definitely had raised eyebrows at that particular scene and it just didn’t really work for me. But that’s only one tiny little example. I could question why the author chose to retell P&P. She clearly has a strong idea for a world here, a period world filled with fantasy creatures so why not just create her own characters to go with it? Like I said above, I wondered if I would have mixed feelings about it but as it happened I really didn’t and to be honest I can’t blame Ms White for wanting to recreate this story with this setting, after all, these are characters that we already know and love so well. So, for me, I got the benefit of reading a new story, with familiar characters that I love, but in a fantasy setting (which I also love) and I just really enjoyed watching Aliza and Daired be ‘proud and prejudiced’ towards each other all over again.
I think this is a really good retelling. It benefits from having a great fantasy setting and I also think it will manage to attract readers who maybe haven’t read Austen by telling the story in a slightly more modern way.
A winning combination of fun, high fantasy and period drama with a wonderful and subtle romance that ties the story together. Would I recommend this – indeed I would and in fact I would go so far as to say I would enjoy reading more of Austen’s works told from a fantasy setting.
I received a copy through Edelweiss courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.
Today is the final week of our readalong of Naamah’s Kiss. Feel free to join in with the comments. This week the questions are being hosted by me. Please be aware that spoilers may be lurking below for this and future books in the series so be careful – you were warned!
So, straight to the questions and answers then:
1. Moirin has come a long way since we first met her. How do you think her adventures have changed her if at all – does anything stand out in particular?
I think that Moirin is a character who is very singular minded and in a way that can maybe come across as though she doesn’t form attachments easily. For me, this changed as the story went along, she’s still very determined, she has a path that she feels she has to follow but she definitely shows a lot more feeling towards other people.
2. I was hit by how far Moirin’s magical abilities have come along, I don’t think I particularly expected it to be honest – why do you think that might be?
I was surprised a bit by this element. When the story started Moirin had her twilight ability and also her skills with plants but as the story as progressed things have definitely moved further on. Of course she was given one particular gift through her summonings with The Circle but her other gifts have increased – I can’t help wondering if this is because she is following her destiny and as things occur it’s almost like a reward from the Gods?
3. Looking back through the story it feels like most aspects had a bearing on the final outcome, do you think Moirin’s path is really set in stone or does she have the ability to change things?
I guess what I really meant with this is that Moirin’s path was guided to certain things, such as Raphael and The Circle – and even though they felt wrong at the time, if she hadn’t taken part in this aspect of the tale or decided not to choose to spend time with Raphael then she would never have received her gift – which, as we know, was essential to the final outcome. It feels like Moirin’s destiny isn’t set in stone – she could veer from the path, or it seems like that to me, but I think the feelings she received are definitely trying to help her choose correctly. So, not set in stone but definitely a lot of help in terms of guidance.
4. Do you feel that Moirin’s actions will have an impact on the Maghuin Dhonn in any way.
I couldn’t help thinking this may be what her destiny was about. Maybe to restore some favour to her people? I wondered if that was why her magical abilities were increased?
5. Were you surprised by the final chapters with Lo and Bao and the overall reaction of Bao?
Yes and no really. I wasn’t surprised by Bao’s initial anger and upset. I guess I was surprised that he chose to leave, but I guess on reflection with his teacher/master now gone perhaps he needs to find a new purpose?
6. We know that Moirin is about to set off an another journey as this book ends. Any predictions, hopes or fears for what is to come next?
My fear is that she’s setting off by herself into unknown territory, but, I guess she has a certain way with her doesn’t she – something about her seems to attract people who want to help her along the way – she seems to fall on her feet I guess. Plus she has her special abilities to help her. In terms of what comes next – well, my feeling is that she will find Bao – what comes after that I don’t know.
Another weekly wrap up post.
This week has flown by. Reading wise I read a couple of books. Made about 30% progress on another, finished the final instalment of my readalong of Naamah’s Kiss and read the second instalment of Chimes at Midnight for one of my other readalongs (review to follow).
To my books:
Caraval by Stephanie Garber – I’ve completed this one and really enjoyed it. My review to follow shortly.
Rosewater by Tade Thompson – about 30% into this book – very intriguing so far.
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White. I really enjoyed this. A retelling of Pride and Prejudice with dragons and other beasties. Another book with the review to follow shortly.
My reading this week is hopefully going to include:
Dawn Study by Maria V Snyder – hello there! The final instalment of the Poison Study series. Oh hell yes.
Deadlight Jack by Mark Onspaugh – because apparently – ‘Worse things than gators lurk in the Louisiana swamp’
Department Zero by Mark Crilley. ‘THE END OF THE UNIVERSE IS ONLY A HOP, SKIP, AND SLIGHT STUMBLE-THROUGH-A-WORMHOLE AWAY’
And, finally, my cover compare this week:
I would say that the middle cover, being similar to the original style, is my favourite, but, in actual fact I have a strange love of this cover:
Are you looking forward to any of these books?
Today is the second week of a four week readalong of Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire. How I’m loving this series and it feels as though each book just keeps adding more depth to the world created by McGuire. Feel free to join us. A Goodreads page is set up here or simply jump in with the comments. Also, be aware that spoilers will be lurking below so be careful!
This week I’m providing the questions so lets get a budge on:
Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy . This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers. The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite. Future week’s themes are listed below. This week’s theme:
Clown “Nobody likes a clown at midnight”
This week’s choice is: It by Stephen King. Okay, I hate to be predictable but this was the book that immediately came to mind. I’ve tried to stick mainly with the covers with the clowns so for those of you with a nervous disposition you might want to leave here right now! Run. Why are you still here – run, now!! I won’t tell you again then…
And my winner, as crazy as this may seem, and definitely a bit understated given some of these covers, is:
Okay, no clown, but it just seems so Stephen King to me!
Which is your favourite?
20/01/2017 – Spacecraft “Slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.”
27/01/2017 – Book “A room without books is like a body without a soul”
03/02/2017 – Hotel “Welcome to the Hotel California! Such a lovely place. Such a lovely face. Plenty of space at the Hotel California”
10/02/2017 – Diamonds “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”
17/02/2017 – Car “Drivin’ along in my automobile”
24/02/2017 Alien – “Aliens – if they exist-are little green men with big eyes and spindly arms…or giant insects or something like a lumpy little creature”
03/03/2017 – Playing cards “Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well”
10/03/2017 – School “I never let my schooling interfere with my education”
17/03/2017 – Bird “Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs are too sweet and wild”
24/03/2017 – Street lamp “He stood under the street lamp, sleet settling in his hair, hands fisted at his side”
31/03/2017 – Casino “Whisky, gambling and Ferraris are better than housework “
07/04/2017 – Circus “You can get the monkey off your back, but the circus never leaves town!
14/04/2017 – Easter “The rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate”
21/04/2017 – Bridge “I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to push forward”
28/04/2017 – Beach/Seaside”Oh I do like to be beside the seaside!”
05/05/2017 – Lion “If you place your head in a lion’s mouth, then you cannot complain one day if he happens to bite it off”
12/05/2017 – Phone “Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it”
19/05/2017 – Plane “When everything seem to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it ….”
26/05/2017 – Mice “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, ‘it might have been’…”
02/06/2017 – Moon “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars”
09/06/2017 – Mummy “It shuffles through the dry, dusty darkness”
16/06/2017 – Guitar “You couldn’t not like someone who liked the guitar”
23/06/2017 – Cat “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this”
30/06/2017 – Hat “It is always cruel to laugh at people, of course, although sometimes if they are wearing an ugly hat it is hard to control yourself “
07/07/2017 – Gold “All that is gold does not glitter”
14/07/2017 – Boats “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat…”
21/07/2017 – Planet “Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it”