Book Review: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

HeartstoneHeartstone by Elle Katharine White

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Harper Voyager (January 17, 2017)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Pride and Prejudice retellings and other Austenesque-inspired stories have traditionally been hit-or-miss with me, but there was something about Heartstone that drew me to it right away. Might it have been the dragons? Okay yeah, it was the dragons.

While I’ll be the first to admit I’m no aficionado on the works of Jane Austen, I am familiar enough with Pride and Prejudice to know that Heartstone is actually a pretty faithful rendition of the original, in some places following the plot so closely that I was surprised the author took such a direct route. The story follows Aliza Bentaine, the second of five daughters in a family living at Merybourne Manor. Their home has been set upon by monsters as of late, and six months ago tragedy struck as Aliza’s youngest sister was attacked and killed by one of the wild gryphons that have invaded the surrounding woods. This has led to the arrival of a band of Riders who have come to Merybourne to eradicate the creatures, and among them are the warriors Master Brysney and Master Daired.

Excited to have two noble bachelors visit the household, Aliza’s mother quickly ensures that her daughters would be present at the party to receive the Riders, and her hopes are answered as Brysney takes an immediate liking to Anjey, the eldest. Aliza herself, however, is unimpressed by Daired, whom she finds rude, arrogant, and standoffish. It also didn’t help that due to a hilarious misunderstanding, Daired started off their introductions by kicking Aliza’s good friend Tobble the hobgoblin clear across the yard. But in order to be polite to their guests, Aliza makes an effort to get to know the Riders and help them hunt the gryphon hordes in any way she can, even befriending Daired’s majestic mount, the dragon Akarra.

The publisher blurb for this book describes it as Elle Katharine White infusing Austen’s classic with her own brand of magic, and I find that wholly accurate. If you know your Pride and Prejudice, many of the major plot points in Heartstone won’t come as much of a surprise, i.e. just as Elizabeth and Darcy manage to find common ground and eventually fall in love, Aliza and Daired also come to an understanding with each other and gradually a romance blossoms between them. With the exception of the ending, I wouldn’t say that the strength of Heartstone is in its story since most of the plot closely mirrors the original, but what really shines is the world-building. White doesn’t stop at populating her book with all sorts of extraordinary creatures from hobgoblins and wyverns to lamias and lindworms, for she has also fleshed out the world with a vibrant culture that’s entirely of her own imagination. I loved how this world had its own history and religion, and even the dragons had their own set of traditions. One of the elements I most appreciated about this book was the fact that White did not set out to copy Austen’s style or reproduce the Regency period, because I doubt that would have worked as well for me.

Still, just when you think you’ve taken this book’s measure, the author does have a couple surprises hidden up her sleeve, waiting for the perfect time to spring them on the unsuspecting reader. I had briefly mentioned the ending, which definitely deserves more attention. For one thing, you most certainly won’t find anything like it in the original, and in a way I’m really glad this is where White decided to go “off-script” because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this book so much. Pride and Prejudice retelling or not, when a story features wyvern and dragon-riding warriors, I think it’s a safe bet that most readers would expect a battle scene or two to see them in action, and in this regard, I’m pleased to say Heartstone did not disappoint. That epic ending capped off what was for the most part a relatively tame and faithful retelling, and it was exactly what the book needed because I don’t think things could have wrapped up more perfectly.

In sum, Heartstone is described as a Pride and Prejudice retelling with fantasy elements, and for better or worse, that is exactly what you get—as in, right up until the grand finale, the plot matches up with the original almost perfectly, down to the similarity in character names, which at times can feel a bit disconcerting. That said though, I thought the decision to depart from the Regency style and language made this book a lot more readable and engaging, and the author’s own additions to the world are wonderfully original and well integrated. Whether you’re an Austen fan or not, I think you’ll also find that the world-building elements are a key highlight along with the story’s superb ending, and despite its strength of being a rather close retelling, there’s no denying Heartstone was at its best when it was doing its own thing, delving into the fantastical. All told it was a delightful experience that felt comfortably familiar and fresh all at once, and I highly recommend it.

4-stars

Mogsy 2

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41 Comments on “Book Review: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

  1. I am currently reading this book and I’m really struggling. On the one hand, all the P&P elements are there, but I find it hard to reconcile that Austen world with the way the characters talk, how they dress (women in trousers who will randomly show naked skin and scars to almost-strangers) with the rigid social norms that are otherwise in place.
    I hope the romance will make this a bit more engaging for me soon and I look forward to the surprises you mention. 🙂

    Like

    • Yeah, I think that’s the problem with these kinds of retellings. How much do you change, and how much do you adhere to the original style and elements? I thought she struck a good balance, but I can also see where you are struggling! I think that would be very distracting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve read several reviews of this one in the same general tone. It sounds like a lot of fun! I wonder if there will be a sequel? Thanks for the review! 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Book Review: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White | Fantasy Sources of Art, Gifts, Books, and Article Resources

  4. What other required reading could have been improved with Dragons in High School? I’m thinking all the damn English Poetry I was forced to read would be the place to start.

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  5. I ultimately wish that she had left the whole P&P storyline out and focused instead on the wonderful world she created. The ending was spectacular, with no P&P in sight! I think I read an interview that said she isn’t finished with this world, so that’s good news:-D

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  6. I’d really like to read Heartstone, since it sounds like it’s up my alley. But it looks like it’s only available as an e-book right now… and I don’t have an e-reader. 😦

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  7. Your stress on the wonderful, imaginative worldbuilding has strengthened my resolve to read this one as soon as possible: the fact that it’s not just a Regency-derived world with dragons, but that it has its own peculiar culture and customs sounds totally fascinating.
    Quite an intriguing review, thanks for sharing! 🙂

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  8. Dragons! That will do it. What a mashup this is- a P & P story with dragons and such. I like some of the more obscure creatures like gryphons and wyverns, so the presence of those has me curious too. Sounds like it has a pretty slam bang ending too. Nice review.

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  9. The more I hear about this book the more I want to read it! Honestly, from everything you’ve said, it sounds like Heartstone would be an amazing movie too. Given how many P&P and Austen fantastical re-imaginings I’ve read, I might find the plot a bit *too* predictable but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it regardless.

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  10. I’ve been hesitating about this book but you made me decide : I need to read it! It sounds so fun, I already loved These Vicious Masks which was another retelling of P&P, I’m sure I’ll like that one!

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  11. You see, I loved this – probably because it did particularly focus on and stay quite true to the original Austen story. I think that’s what is really clever about it. Austen lovers like me – get to return to the world of the Bennetts (although enjoying different names here) and once again experience these two characters getting to know each other – and fantasy lovers get to read the story from a whole new angle. So for me, win: win.
    Happy am I that you liked this!
    Lynn 😀

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    • How cool that there are so many perspectives and different ways that P&P fans regard this! In general, I think I prefer my retellings to have a more original take on the plot, but honestly I didn’t mind so much that she stayed so loyal to the source. She more than made up for it with her world 🙂

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  12. I’ve been oohing and aahing over the Dragon, I never realized this was a Pride and Prejudice retelling. I really need to go back and finish reading Pride and Prejudice some day. I’m not sure how I managed to only read half of it at the time.

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  13. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

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