Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher

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If you’ve read Fletcher’s stuff before, you’ll know that he has a tendency to write grimdark books full of fucked up shit. This is not an exception to that rule, no rainbows and sunshine here.

The MC, Khraen, is a demonologist, which are known for common use of human sacrifice. Khraen is a distinctive and memorable character for a lot of reasons. I wouldn’t describe him as an anti-hero, I would say he’s straight up a villain. He’s a quite a different type of villain than I’m used to, though. Khraen has had his heart broken into pieces and scattered throughout the world, and because of that he’s suffering from amnesia in the beginning of the book and is almost animal-like in nature. However, each time he finds a piece of his heart, he restores a bit of himself and his memories. This is the second book in a row where the main character has amnesia – which is strange since I haven’t read one of those kinds of books in ages..

He’s eventually paired up with a necromancer named Henke, who needs human blood for her magic and self-maintenance. Henke is pretty, fascinated with Khraen, and is stone cold undead. She feels no pain physically, and can raise animals as well as humans from the dead – which she can then bend to her will. What’s even more bleak about this is that the humans she raises from the dead aren’t mindless zombies. They remember everything from their lives, and have minds of their own and yet they have no willpower… they are completely enslaved. It’s pretty fascinating to watch a villainous character grapple with how evil they are… with each piece of his heart that gets returned he becomes more ruthless. He remembers more of the atrocities he’s committed in his past which takes him further down the rabbit hole of being a villain. All the while he’s aware on some level that he’s becoming more fucked up and wants to change it, but he’s also detached and accepting of horrific acts of violence. This whole book has the main character wrestling with his morality. He tries to be the ‘better’ person this time around and make some genuinely benevolent choices, but he inevitably ends up doing the evil thing but doesn’t seem to care much. It’s a slow progression from bad to worse as he and his partner become more powerful and remember more things. He hates wizards, a lot. Every time he sees one he wants to kill them and burn down their towers and wreak havoc on them. He can’t remember why for most of the first half of the book.

The world building is as dark as the characters which makes this a deeply grimdark book. There are cities that were once powered by demons, and these demons are summoned from other dimensions through mass human sacrifice. There are other moments where I was like WTF …Henke wouldn’t die if she was cut into pieces…it’s tough to kill a necromancer. But, that doesn’t mean an enemy can’t render them harmless. If Henke gets cut into pieces and buried she will just sit there in a conscious state and rot away until the end of time, slowly sinking into the earth, buried forever in blackness and loneliness losing grip on her sanity. WTF even is that? Christ. There’s a lot of sexy time between MC and Henke, and in order for her to ‘feel warm’ she has to use human blood to restore herself. Otherwise she’s cold dead flesh, so like, necrophilia is sort of a thing here too, lol.

The prose in this was pretty great, I can’t speak to typos or errors since I listened to the audio, but the dialogue was natural and fluid. It was descriptive enough to create a world but not so much so that it slowed down the story. As far as originality, it’s not that the concept of wizards vs evil necromancers is a new thing, but I haven’t seen it from the necromancer’s point of view before, so in that way it felt fresh.

I would recommend this one for fans of grimdark, villain POVs, grim and bleak worlds, necromancy, fast reads, and those who listen to audiobooks.

This book is currently a semifinalist over on Rockstarlit Book Asylum and is awaiting a full review from them. I am not the team judging this book, this was on my review request list for months, I just haven’t had time to get around to it before now. I am not leaving ratings for books outside my batch that are still in the running for SPFBO, opinions are my own.