Stoneheart

Stoneheart

Author: Charlie Fletcher

Publication: 2008, Hyperion

Pages: 450

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary:  George has been angry ever since his father died.  He’s in and out of trouble all the time.  On a fieldtrip to a London museum, George gets in trouble yet again and is ordered to wait in the lobby until the trip is over.  Bored and angry he goes outside, and in a momentary fit of rage hits a small carving of a dragon on the wall of the museum.  He expects to feel pain and broken bones.  Instead, his hand is fine but the dragon breaks.  That one destructive act changes everything for George, because in London, statues come to life.  Most people, ordinary people, can’t see them.  But now George can, and the statues are angry.  George soon finds himself embroiled in an ancient war between the Spits (statues of people) and the Taints (non-human statues).  His only allies in this fight are The Gunner –

a stalwart statue of a World War I soldier – and young Edie, a girl all too familiar with the world of Spits and Taints who has the ability to see into the past of any rock or statue she touches.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: Stoneheart is a wonderfully imaginative novel.  The statues that inhabit its pages are as real and unique as any person, and Fletcher does a fantastic job of bringing them to life.  I particularly liked Dictionary, the statue of an 18th century scholar who wrote a dictionary.  His language is huge, flowery, and peppered with the odd ticks of a speech impediment.  He’d make an interesting character in any novel, but the simple fact that he is a statue – and that George and Edie are the only ones who can actually interact with him – adds that unique touch that truly brings his character to life.

In Fletcher’s world, each statue was imbued with a spark of life by their Maker, and they have to live their lives in accordance with the purpose their Maker intended.  So the statue of a Sphinx has to be mysterious, to love riddles and indirect answers.  The statue of a gargoyle can fly around all it likes until it rains, at which point it has to return to its pedestal no matter what it’s doing – because being a waterspout is its purpose.  And the statue of a soldier is likely to be as honorable and tough, because s its purpose is to represent the ideal of what it means to be a soldier.  All this makes for an incredible mix of characters and a fun read.

What I Liked the Least: My biggest problem with Stoneheart is that George and Edie don’t have to face their problems alone.  Throughout most of the novel The Gunner is at their side.  And on the one occasion where he is not, another soldier Spit steps up to take his place.  What this means is that pretty much whenever there’s danger, whenever there’s fighting to done, it’s handled by a Spit.  That made me far less worried for George and Edie than I might otherwise have been.   Plus, since Spits are statues, I ended up caring for them a lot less than I would have carried for a normal person.  It got so every time George and Edie found themselves in trouble I sat there thinking, “So where’s the Spit this time?  How long before they get rescued?”

How Good was the Action?  The action was well done.  Fletcher does a good job of integrating George’s emotions into the action and providing nice blow-by-blow details.  The problem, as you might have guessed, is that most of the fights are handled by a Spit.  Given how tough the Taints are – they’re made of metal or stone and often have incredible speed and strength – it’s no wonder that George and Edie can’t fight them off alone.  But having the Spits around to fight for them took away a lot of the tension that makes for a really great action scene.  It was hard to feel too worried for George and Edie when I knew that, no matter how bleak things looked, a Spit was likely to show up and blow the Taint away with a good blast from its gun.

How Engaging was the Story?  While most of the story takes place from George’s perspective, Fletcher does a good job of mixing things up and showing the occasional chapter from the view of Edie, the Gunner, and even the stories arch villain, who’s known only as The Walker.  That really helped bring some of the secondary characters to life and kept the story clipping along at a nice pace.  Fletcher also manages to do a great job of weaving the various elements of the story together.  So for example, George’s father was a sculptor (a Maker in his own right), and from the very beginning George keeps playing with a lump of plasticene in his pocket, molding it into various shapes.  All these elements (and a mark left on George’s hand from a fight with a stone dragon) come together at the end to help George discover his own power.  It was a lovely touch that helped breathe and extra spark of life into an already engaging story.

Overall Assessment: Stoneheart is a fun and highly imaginative novel, a great mix of the gritty and fantastic that pumps along at a fast enough pace to grip readers to the very end.  While the Spits did too much of the fighting for my taste, the story was still a rollicking good ride.

Profanity: Minimal

Sex: None

Violence: There is violence, but given that most of it happens between statues there’s very little blood and no gore.  The fact that most of the characters are statues also does a lot to make the violence feel less threatening.

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