Favourite Fantasy books – in a nutshell #wyrdandwonder

W&W

IMAGE CREDITS: Flaming phoenix by Sujono Sujono | Decorative phoenix by Tanantachai Sirival

Today I’m posting using a theme I’ve seen around the blogosphere as part of the Wyrd and Wonder event.  Check out this and this post who have already tackled this topic in wonderful fashion.  Basically, describe five of your favourite fantasy books in five words.  Actually, this was tougher than I expected but here goes:

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

– Aztec vampires feuding in Mexico

Certain Dark Things HC Mech.indd

 

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1) by Mark Lawrence

– Kickass assassin nuns in training

Redsister

 

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

– Pirates? Princesses? True love? Inconceivable

PB

 

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

– Dysfunctional psychic family meets gangsters

Spoonbenders

 

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

– Pride, Prejudice, Dragons… oh my!

Heartstone

 

 

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

Posted On 16 January 2017

Filed under Book Reviews
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heartstoneHeartstone 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.

 

Friday Firsts: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

FridayFirsts
Friday Firsts
 is a new meme that runs every Friday over on Tenacious Reader. The idea is to feature the first few sentences/paragraph of your current book and try and outline your first impressions as a result. This is a quick and easy way to share a snippet of information about your current read and to perhaps tempt others.  Stop on by and link up with Tenacious Reader.    This week I’m reading  Heartstone by Elle Katharine White.

heartstone
I’d never seen an angry hobgoblin before.

If this one wasn’t my friend, it might’ve been funny.  Tobble was red in the face before I noticed him in the grass by the garden wall, and since hobgoblins have green skin, that in itself was quite a feat.

“Tobble, what’s wrong?” I asked in Low Gnomic, or what could’ve passed as Gnomic if I hadn’t butchered it with my Arlean accent.  The earthy words used by hobgoblins and other garden creatures sounded heavy and awkward on my human tongue, and Tobble had often despaired of my pronunciation.  Today, however, he was too distraught to notice.

“Lord Merybourne has hired Riders, Aliza, Five of them!  Do you know what that means?” he said.  His head, which was round and homely as a potato, came halfway up my shin, and he clutched handfuls of his mossy hair as I knelt next to him.  “We’re doomed!  Doomed, I say!”

My First Impressions

To be fair I have read a little further on and I’m really enjoying this so far which makes it a little difficult to remember what my first impression truly was.  That being said – this has a light, airy feel to it doesn’t it.  It gives the impression that it will be fun and entertaining.  Plus, who are these riders??

What you reading this Friday??

*The above excerpt was taken from an advanced reader copy and it is possible that the final version may have further changes.

Waiting on Wednesday: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : Heartstone by Elle Katharine White.

heartstoneA debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.

Due January 2017

Jane Austen, Wyverns, Warriors – oh hell yes, get in my life!