ARC provided to me by author Ben Galley in exchange for an honest review.
The Heart of Stone is a very addicting read, with very heart filled characters that will make you question your empathy. It may also be the only book I’ve ever read that’s main protagonist is a Golem.
“A knight. A girl. A lord. A golem.”
Task is a Windcut Stone Golem, the last of his kind, and was solely made for killing, destruction, and war. Yet, Task has a soul, a heart, and feelings, no matter how hard he tries to suppress them. After being made and then sold from warmonger to warmonger for 400 years, unable to do anything but listen to his master’s orders, Task has been taught to turn his feelings off and never get close to anyone. That is, until a little girl teaches him that feeling things do not make you weak and everyone is capable of love and doing the right thing, always.
“Friendship was a dangerous thing for a golem.”
Lesky is a stable girl, carrying all the lessons her mother taught her, while still having a sharp wit and tongue. Lesky made this story for me. She was so wise beyond her years, yet still so vulnerable. She was the heart of this story, and she constantly broke mine while reading. Despite being young and being dealt such an unfair hand at life so early, she is so strong and capable. Lesky was everything in this story to me.
Besides Lesky, my favorite character was Alabast Flint, the Knight of Dawn. He has a preceding reputation from slaying a dragon in his youth, which has given him a lot of fame, which he has chosen to squalor in gambling halls and brothels. Now he has a drinking problem and owes some very scary people money. That is, until his debt is paid and he is recruited, maybe against his will, to kill a Windcut Stone Golem. It should be no problem since he’s killed a dragon, true?
Last, but not least, we have Lord Lash. I always get so disheartened when I read books surrounding war and none of the leaders are disabled in any way. This book gives you the representation and it feels so believable and authentic. Lash leads Last Fading, who has been winning this civil war for 9 years. That is, until the other side, the Truehards, purchase a Windcut Stone Golem named Task!
“You humans are fascinated by the death of your own kind. You bicker as an excuse to battle, caring not what damage it wreaks in the process. There will always be wars. And I will always fight them”
The main villain in this book is also so expertly written. I was constantly reevaluating and making up crazy theories, just trying to figure out whose side this person was on. The constant twists and turns with this character were nothing short of amazing, and the emotional journey I went on reading about them was pretty insane. Honestly, this was one of the best villains I’ve ever read about, and I’d love to know their complete backstory.
“History was a bloody mess, scraped up and strained into the books of the people who made the mess in the first place”
But even with the amazing characters, The Heart of Stone’s pacing is just so very slow. I was constantly getting fed breadcrumbs and promises for this huge civil war, but all I got was a few gory and violent snippets, but never any real war action. I also felt like the first 85% was very world building and character based, with drawn out promises of war, then that last 15% had everything coming at me really quickly, with a new promise of a brand new story line.
This book was still super enjoyable, and don’t get me wrong, the messages within this book were great and very important, but it made the almost 400 page book feel even longer. In addition to as much as I loved the characters and their growth, it just didn’t help the book and its constant war theme from not dragging. It also made for a very anticlimactic ending, which for sure leaves a foot in the door for additional stories in this world. (Which I totally would read!)
And I know there is a lot of world building to do in a standalone novel, but the magic system didn’t feel completely cohesive, either. I wish I knew more about Glimpses and Grims, and the full spectrum of their power. I feel like we were only privy to certain aspects, since old magic is banned in this world, but it left me with a lot of questions. Again, I know only so much be done with 400 pages, but with the down time of the war developments I feel like we could have learned more about the magical abilities in this world.
“Humans put far too much trust in their muskets. They wielded them like wizards’ staffs, as if just pointing and praying could solve any problem.”
Despite those two qualms, I really enjoyed this book and think it was a pretty strong stand alone. Plus, I love these characters and will cherish a few for days to come. I also love supporting independently published authors and I truly think this book is a gem of 2017’s fantasies. The Heart of Stone is unique and captivating, and has some really important messages inside of it.