by Elle Katharine White
Cover Artist: Dragon art by VSForever / Shutterstock
Review by Gayle Surrette
Harper Voyager Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062451941
Date: 17 January 2017 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
I have to admit that I was drawn to Heartstone by the promotional material that referenced the works of Jane Austen and stated that the story was infused with elements of Pride and Prejudice. Well, I love Jane Austen's novels and have read hundreds of variations, retellings, and reimaginings that place her characters in either modern times, fantasy settings, or the future. So, how could I resist ... well obviously, I couldn't.
White's story is recognizable as fantasy but with some riffs on the genre which allow the story to stand out as fresh. For those who could probably quote Austen's Pride and Prejudice in their sleep, the nods to that work are recognizable but there are also differences which are unexpected but logical within the setting and the narrative of the story.
The setting is similar to any fantasy world, there's a king, lords, ladies, bards, accountants, farmers, healers, and the usual occupations in pre-industrial economies. There are also dragons, wyverns, hobgblins, gryphons and many other fantastical creatures. Some creatures are considered friends of man and others enemies. And there are those who fight the creatures which would attack humans, to make the land safe for humans. There's also seems a bias against the friendly creatures even when they work with or for humans.
Aliza Bentaine's family lives in Meryborne Manor with her sisters and parents. The people of Lord Meryborne's land have pooled their money to hire Riders to come rid them of the creatures who are attacking them. One of Aliza's sisters was a victim of an attack by a gryphon.
The Riders that are hired are ones that are more experienced than what they had expected to be able to afford due to some personal issues of some members of the group. They'll be living in a house near where the attacks have been taking place not far from the main manor house.
While some of the similarities with the plot of Pride and Prejudice is apparent, there are enough digressions and accommodations to the necessities of this story line that readers cannot be sure that what they think they know will happens, will actually happen. This story stands on its own.
The writing is so descriptive in sections that it is at times more like watching a movie than reading a book. The characters come alive while the danger keeps you turning the pages. There's romance, resentment, family loyalty, friendship, and betrayal coming together in a story that pulls you in and finally makes you sigh in contentment when you turn the last page.