Review: Heartstone

HeartstoneSynopsis (from Goodreads): 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.

As someone who loves all things Austen, when Elle Katharine White’s Heartstone crossed my path I knew I had to get my hands on it. It combines two of my favourite things: Pride and Prejudice… and dragons! And it does it rather well.

I appreciated that Heartstone managed to incorporate the riders, dragons and other creatures within the world of Pride and Prejudice without deviating too much from the structure of the original novel, even if it did make for some uneven pacing. The story spans many months and the major points of action are spread apart. While the novel doesn’t dwell on the time between, it does have to do some side-stepping in order to get to the interesting parts. But even with the small lulls in action, I found it to be a quick read.

What I find most interesting about retellings is how the original characters get recast and how their relationships unfold. We all know the epic Lizzie/Darcy relationship from the original P&P, so seeing it played out by Aliza and Daired feels like watching favourite OTP fall in love again (unless you haven’t read or watched Pride and Prejudice, in which case, what have you been doing with your life?) Aliza’s relationship with her sister Anjey (Jane in the original) is also one of the highlights.

But I was most interested in how some of the villainous characters from the original novel were recast here. While the Caroline Bingley, Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins characters come off better here, Heartstone really doubles down on Wickham as a villain, which I think was a sound narrative choice. There were also some new characters introduced: the dragons! I love these talking dragons, you guys. And I love this book. It’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t take itself as seriously as some Austen retellings. It’s respectful of the original text as well, which is very important.

Report Card:

  1. Coverart/Book design: 9/10 A. It’s got a dragon on the cover!
  2. Plot/Concept: 9.5/10 A+. Pride and Prejudice with dragons, you guys.
  3. Main character: 9/10 A. I loved Aliza!
  4. Secondary characters: 8.5/10 A-. A well-rounded cast, but a few could have used more development.
  5. Setting/Worldbuilding: 9/10 A. This was where the book really shone. It feels like England by another name but it also feels very original.
  6. Writing: 8.5/10 A-
  7. Pacing: 8.5/10 A-
  8. Romance: 9/10 A
  9. Ending: 9/10 A
  10. Overall: 80/90. A solid A rating and 4 stars from me! Everything is better with dragons.
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