Book Review: Heartstone

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This book was billed as Pride & Prejudice plus dragons and honestly that description couldn’t be more up my alley. I enjoy reading classics and fantasy, feel that every book can be improved with the addition of dragons, but also enjoy the Regency Era and a clever turn of phrase; I even enjoy a bit of romantic fluff stories that lack substance…this book unfortunately failed on fairly every level I judge a book. Which is to say, this is a rather critical and unkind book review, so if you are a fan of this book I would stop reading now.
I feel as if my expectations were realistic for Heartstone; I wasn’t expecting the book to reach Jane Austen’s standard of quality, but I thought to at least find it an enjoyable romp through a familiar story with some fantastic elements (namely dragons, hobgoblins, gryphons, and a number of other fantastic creatures I forget the names of). Unfortunately the book read as someone who had watched several Pride and Prejudice movies, but never actually picked up the novel; it lacked the depth, dialogue, and character development of the original book. Still an understanding of the original story and characters is necessary for anyone hoping to read Heartstone as there is a deplorable lack of world building and background on the characters. We are plopped into the scene expected to understand the relations of the characters to one another, a semblance of their personalities and motivations, in addition to grasping the realities of this strange new world that involves gnomes and garden hobgoblins and heartstones themselves with hardly any explanation as to how any of these creatures and things relate to one another or what they signify. One of the biggest gaps I felt was trying to figure out if Regency Era rules of decorum and polite society still applied or not and the answer seemed to be: when it suited the author. Women in this book could hold their place in the regiments next to men, wear trousers, and fight atop dragons, but supposedly it was still considered inappropriate for an unmarried young woman to be alone with a man on a balcony. Even such dichotomies might be forgiven if they were consistent and explained in some fashion. Perhaps one of the most eye-rolling moments for me was when Aliza waxed eloquent about her friend marrying a slightly annoying man as being the most brave thing she had ever witnessed—this is following actual attacks by monsters where people die and creatures who summon fire with their hands! Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. The author also felt it necessary not to develop characters beyond the initial observation (as we well know the characters in Austen’s original struggle with prejudices that occasionally blind them from one another’s merit), but by changing their personalities entirely. It almost felt as if the author couldn’t stomach an unlikeable character or character trait; the only way to redeem someone was to change their personality rather than to accept that we are all flawed and want to misunderstand and be blinded by pride.
I could probably go on with my complaints, but I guess to summarize it: the book wasn’t well written. The author introduced certain ideas and then seemed to abandon them halfway through the novel (perhaps these are things she hopes to re-visit in a second book?), while other issues were resolved too tidily and “off-screen” as it were greatly diminishing the impact of said resolution. Overall, even for a light fluff read, I wouldn’t recommend this novel as I found myself more and more annoyed and only finished it through sheer determination to see it through. I still believe you can combine the world of Jane Austen's novels with dragons in a clever, enjoyable book--Heartstone however is not that book.

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