Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley

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I was excited to read this one, I knew a little bit about it before I picked it up, I knew that it had a golem as one of the main characters which is what got me so interested – I love non human POV’s.


Bingo: Self Published, 2017, Non-human protag


 

Characters:

  • Task – Task was meant to be the star of the show in this novel, and man did he deliver. He’s such a complicated character, he’s over 400 years old and was bred for war. He wasn’t a servant like some golems, he was designed for the sole purpose of being a war machine. Even though he’s absolutely bound by his magic to follow the will of his master, he’s found subtle ways of expressing discontent if he doesn’t like the orders, and has in the past tried to talk his way out of things he really doesn’t want to do. Through the story we get flashbacks of Tasks past, and we get a ton of character growth from the past as well as what’s going on in the present. Task has normal likes and dislikes, thoughts, emotions, and personality traits that a human does, but he’s treated like dirt. One of the more endearing things is that he loves the rain, I love the rain too – but the reason why he loves the rain is beautiful.
  • Lesky – I don’t typically like spunky younger characters that are there for levity in a more morose world with lots of war, sometimes I just feel like they’re out of place. For whatever reason I loved Lesky, she wasn’t so over done that it was annoying, and she gained a ton of wisdom from her mother that serves her well throughout the novel. Lesky befriends Task and their odd ball pairing was just charming and delightful to read.
  • Ellia – I don’t even know where to start with this one, she’s there as sort of an advisor, but her character takes several turns through the book getting more and more complex and more insane.
  • Dartridge – this is Tasks master, and although he’s had worse in the past, Task isn’t a fan of this dude. He’s childish, arrogant, and careless, his father is a general and he’s trying to live up to his expectations but fails all the time. He has the capacity to be cruel and unyielding and ultimately has a huge hand in how the civil war will play out.
  • Alabaster Flint – The Fadings answer to the Kings loyalists getting a golem to fight for them, he’s a knight who once slew the last living dragon, and The Fading (the rebels) have employed him hoping he can conquer Task

 

Plot:

There’s a civil war, the boy Kings loyalists, and the rebels who are displeased with the leadership and want a better life. The war has been going on for 9 years and it’s been a blood bath. The country of Hartlund is poor, starving, sick, and tired of the war, both sides are desperate for an end to the fighting. What I really loved about this book is that you get to see both sides of the war, and the gritty realism of the lower class soldiers getting shit on and used up was really well done. It did a great job of showing both sides of a war have great costs, and that there are decent people on each side. There’s actually a decent amount of material in the book that makes you pause and reflect.


 

Magic:

There’s something called old magic, which is mostly feared and thought not to exist anymore. Most people didn’t even know there were still golems in the world, and Task is one of the last. There’s also a more common type of magic that lets people do different things. Glimpses, Gazers, and Blinders can all do different sorts of magic, a lot of it revolving around getting in peoples heads. This book has a decent amount of magical elements, but it’s nothing like Brandon Sandersons stuff, it’s more toned down than that.


 

Worldbuilding:

You get two maps in the beginning of the book, a world map and a close in of the country of Hartlund. The characters march with their armies through some of the country side, so you can look at the map if you want to. Most of the plot takes place in Hartlund although there’s mention of the other countries within the world. There is a set religion in this world, and their god is known as The Architect, and their holy script is known as The Manual. There wasn’t a ton of info around this, but you do get drip fed the culture and religion as the book goes on.

This book also did something similar to what Sanderson did in Stormlight Archives – common animals were replaced by magical counterparts with a common set of biological features. In Stormlight most of the animals have crustacean like features, in this book most animals have a combination of scales, fur, and back ridges.

There are also different kinds of golems, and the material they’re made out of makes a big difference, for instance wood golems tend to rot which drives them mad.

The setting is in the north where the countryside is cold, wet, and unforgiving in the wind.


 

Pacing:

I couldn’t put this book down, the pace was pretty quick and there were a bunch of battles and action scenes, the book is almost 500 pages and I think I finished in less than 36 hours of picking it up.

 


 

Audience:

  • People who like multi pov
  • People who like seeing both sides of a war
  • people who like complex characters, some they may not like
  • people who like odd ball pairing friendships
  • people who like non human pov
  • people who like flintlock fantasy
  • people looking for female protags (not task)
  • people who like a moderate amount of magic, not too much not too little

 

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