Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: Heartstone by Elle Katharine White


Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Rating: 5 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

A debut historical fantasy that recasts Jane Austen’s beloved Pride & Prejudice in an imaginative world of wyverns, dragons, and the warriors who fight alongside them against the monsters that threaten the kingdom: gryphons, direwolves, lamias, banshees, and lindworms.

They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Passionate, headstrong Aliza Bentaine knows this all too well; she’s already lost one sister to the invading gryphons. So when Lord Merybourne hires a band of Riders to hunt down the horde, Aliza is relieved her home will soon be safe again.

Her relief is short-lived. With the arrival of the haughty and handsome dragonrider, Alastair Daired, Aliza expects a battle; what she doesn’t expect is a romantic clash of wills, pitting words and wit against the pride of an ancient house. Nor does she anticipate the mystery that follows them from Merybourne Manor, its roots running deep as the foundations of the kingdom itself, where something old and dreadful slumbers . . . something far more sinister than gryphons.

It’s a war Aliza is ill-prepared to wage, on a battlefield she’s never known before: one spanning kingdoms, class lines, and the curious nature of her own heart.

Elle Katharine White infuses elements of Austen’s beloved novel with her own brand of magic, crafting a modern epic fantasy that conjures a familiar yet wondrously unique new world.

What I Liked:

I love Pride and Prejudice, and I love fantasy, so I had high hopes that I would enjoy this book. I'd only seen one other review for the book when I started it, so it was fairly fresh and "untainted" to me. I am so pleased that I LOVED this book! I've been feeling kind of meh about the books I've been reading - they've been good (some were not-so-good), but I haven't felt gushy-passionate about most of them. This book though! This is one to gush about for ages.

Aliza Bentaine lives in Merybourne Manor with her three sisters and parents. The Manor has been attacked by gryphons several times recently - including one attack that claimed the life of her youngest sister. Lord Merybourne hires Riders to hunt down the gryphon, and so they arrive. Aliza's older beautiful sister takes a liking to one of the Riders, and that romance blossoms. But one of the Riders, Alastair Daired, is as haughty as he is handsome, and doesn't like anyone. But he's the finest of the Riders, with an impressive lineage and impeccable instincts. The Riders rid Merybourne Manor of the gryphons, but something ancient is awakening. Gryphons at Merybourne Manor were just the start of a war that has been brewing, unbeknownst to all.

I. Looooved. This book. I feel like I can't even write a proper review because all I want to do is gush and squeal and direct everyone to Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Chapters Indigo to buy a copy for yourself. This is adult fantasy, with an intense and sweeping story, fascinating world-building, really likable characters, and a swoony, subtle romance. Squee! This is everything I love, all in one package. And with a beautiful cover to boot!

This book is told from Aliza's first-person perspective. Aliza is the equivalent of "Elizabeth", in Pride and Prejudice. Aliza is softhearted and kind, and she isn't bold or fierce. Yet she would do anything for her family and those she loves, something that she proves over and over, as the story goes on. Aliza is somewhat of an artist, and an herbmaster, and everyone likes her. She isn't as beautiful as her sister, so she likes to think that she is more in the shadows, but she's very likable and sweet.

I liked Aliza, and I loved Daired. He's the equivalent of Darcy, and oh my goodness what a fine grouchy, haughty male protagonist he was. White captured the essence of Darcy perfectly. Daired seems like a haughty Rider that keeps to himself, and he doesn't seem very nice at first. But as the story goes on, we see that he isn't so bad, like he appeared to be. Daired is extremely selfless and noble, even when it appears that he is being selfish. He thinks of others first all the time; Aliza seriously misjudges him at first. But the author set up the story that way, so who could blame her. Daired was never completely awful to Aliza, not in a cruel way, or intentionally. He's so Darcy-esque and I adore him!

The secondary characters are quite likable as well. Aliza has three sisters (one older, two younger), and each are incredibly different. Anjey is the older, beautiful Bentaine girl who falls for one of the Riders (not Daired). She is sweet and sunshine-y. Leyda is restless and always looking for an adventure. Mari is reserved and quiet, never attending balls because she is stuck in a book. The Riders are mysterious at first, but I liked them. Brysney is the one who falls for Anjey, and he is such a charming guy. His sister, Charis, is another Rider; she is a fierce warrior. There are several other Riders whose names I've forgotten - their roles aren't as important in the book. The dragons are very important - Akarra is Daired's, and she plays a significant role in the book. 

Dragons and gryphons aren't the only magical creatures in this story's world. There is a haunted forest, an ancient and deadly creature, the Silent King (you do not want to mess with him)... so many secrets unfold, and it all starts with gryphons attacking Merybourne Manor. The author paints the setting well, and crafts the world-building expertly. I love the world that she has created here. I could vividly picture and imagine what was happening.

It felt like one big epic, or a large story that did rise to a climax, but there were other smaller climaxes throughout the book. An interesting thing about this story was that there were little stories that arose with conflicts, but those subplots were resolved, but then they showed up again. For example, Aliza received a marriage proposal from a nobleman. She refused, but then her friend ended up having to marry him. Further into the story, Aliza goes to visit the friend, and she and Daired meet again (after months, because he and the other Riders left Merybourne Manor). I liked how the subplot resolved itself (Aliza didn't marry that strange man, her friend did) but then showed up again (Aliza went to visit her friend, and met Daired there, which was a surprise, but very necessary for the story to move forward). 

Of course, this novel is a standalone, so it was bound to feel like one big story with little stories happening too. I love standalone novels! This one was magnificent. I loved the tone of the writing too - it's a light tone, despite the seriousness of the plot. I wouldn't necessarily say humorous, but definitely light. There is a lot of fun, especially with the dragons, with gnomes, with forges and massive castle-like mansions. Aliza had her own adventure, in this story!

The romance was wonderful! Very subtle, but also very swoony. If you're familiar with Pride and Prejudice, then you sort of know what to expect... the author does follow the romance of Pride and Prejudice to an extent, but I'd say the romance of this book is very much its own. I shipped grouchy Daired and sweet Aliza so hard. They were perfectly for each other! Daired was constantly (unintentionally) doing things that ended up irritating Aliza, and she didn't exactly hide her irritation sometimes. While she isn't a fierce warrior, she is definitely headstrong, and the two of them go toe-to-toe and are a good match. 

I should also mention that there is NO love triangle. I know in Pride and Prejudice, there is Mr. Wickham... there is a character that is "Mr. Wickham", in this book, but Aliza barely knows him at all. They interact exactly two times, and there isn't anything between them. Aliza never had a particular good feeling about him, and with good reason. Nothing remotely triangular about this story's romance!

Things started out "simple" (with the Riders coming to hunt the gryphons), but the story got complex and intense as the story went on. The ending is a whirlwind of action and emotions, and I was completely sucked in and hanging on for dear life. I love how the author chose to wrap things up. It was a neat, tidy ending that was very satisfying, with just a hint of bittersweet (nothing to do with the two main characters). I will definitely be rereading this book in the future!

What I Did Not Like:

Hmmm, the romance addict in me would have loved to see more between Daired and Aliza! But for an adult fantasy fiction that draws inspiration from Pride and Prejudice, obviously this book wouldn't be like that. Which is totally okay!

Would I Recommend It:

I definitely recommend this book, to anyone adult fiction fans, fantasy fans, Pride and Prejudice fans. This story was light and entertaining, yet complex and dense and so well-written. I've read a number of adult fiction novels this year (not adult romance, mind), but I think this one is my favorite.

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded up to 5 stars. Yup, I'm giving a book five stars. I adored this book! I am looking forward to reading more fantasy by this author. Especially if she will be writing more retellings!


Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

34 comments:

  1. I love seeing a 5 star review from you! As you were describing the events of the book, it sounds like they mirror the events in Pride and Prejudice pretty closely, which I love. Can't wait to get started on this!

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    1. I feel like it's been too long! I adored this book. I think you will really enjoy this one, Tammy. :D

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  2. This sounds amazing! I love anything to do with Pride & Prejudice (BEST ROMANCE TO EVER HAVE BEEN WRITTEN), so this is most definitely going to my TBR. The romance sounds so good and of course dragons! How can I resist?
    Lovely review, Alyssa!

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    1. Nick, I think you might like this one a lot! I loved P&P, and so reading this one was so fun. Especially since there was no love triangle in this book. It was lovely. <3 Go go go!

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  3. Yay a 5 star review!! I need to check this book out ASAP. Great review! I love the idea that the author was able to create a whole new world that you enjoyed. I also like that it is a standalone novel that worked so well!

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    1. You must! It was a breath of fresh air. I hope you love it! Let me know if/when you read it. :D

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  4. It's weird that I've never heard of this book until yesterday (your swoon post!) but it's seriously right up my ally! Even better that it's a 5 star read for you! I'm so happy it's coming out soon.

    Awesome review, Alyssa!

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    1. I'm glad you have put it on your radar! It's a diamond in the rough, honestly. The cover is SO gorgeous but the story inside is even more amazing. I hope you give it a chance, Cyn!

      Thank you. =)

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  5. oh man...this sounds very interesting. Even if the romance was a bit lacking, I do like that it has some Pride and Prejudice connection here.

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    1. Not so much lacking - more like it's very subtle, and sweet. Not a dominating force in the story. It's very P&P-esque! I loved it. =)

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  6. *pterodactyl screech* P&P with dragons???? I NEED it.

    Clearly reading the original P&P did something to me, because ever since then I've loved the grouchy, haughty types (in fiction...haha). Tabbing over to Amazon to buy a copy right now! I need to be a part of this squee-ing. :D

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    1. LOL! Danya, this is exactly something you would enjoy (I think)! Daired is so swoony (in a grouchy way). ;) Let me know what you think, if/when you read it!

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  7. This looks SO amazing. I hadn't heard of this before, thank you so much for alerting me to the existence of a P&P dragon retelling with such an epic cover <3 You have me excited for 2017 now :)

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    1. Woohoo! I am so happy to have put this on your radar! Isn't the cover amazing!? Definitely worth of the beautiful story inside the covers. I hope you love this one, Emily!

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  8. I'm glad you loved this one so much. I hadn't heard of it before. I love that it's a Pride and Prejudice retelling that is NOT contemporary!

    -Lauren

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    1. YES! A fantasy novel, rather than contemporary... I'm on board. Lady Bridget's Diary is a great historical romance retelling of P&P. Also very good!

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  9. I've never heard of this but it sounds AMAZINGGG!!! I must put it on my TBR asap!

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    1. Lauren! You must read it! Please let me know if/when you do - I want to know you think! =)

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  10. I'm in...preordering now!!!!!!!!

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    1. YAAAAASSSS! Go go go go! You will not regret it!

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  11. A mash-up like this has big appeal. Glad you mentioned it in your comment @ Delighted REader so I could check it out. :)

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    1. RIGHT?! I love it! Thank you for circling back, Sophia! =)

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  12. This book sounds awesome! I have GOT TO check it out, especially since you loved it so much!

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    1. Teresa, I think you might love this one! It's such a wonderful story. ^_^

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  13. Ahh wow amazing review Alyssa! I don't know why I haven't heard about this book until now but it really looks and sounds absolutely fantastic. I will admit too you I have not read Pride and Prejudice yet. But I do love complex and fantasy book! I will try too check out this book from the library as soon as it comes out! Thank you so much for your awesome post my friend.

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    1. It definitely has been flying under the radar, which is a shame! It's a diamond in the rough. I think you would like this one, Katiria. =) Thank you!

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  14. Oh man why did I ignore this book?! It sounds amazing! 5 stars?! I need! It's a P&P retelling!!! Also, it's been so long since I read a book that focused on dragons (I can't even remember the last time. Probably The Shadow Queen.). I'll have to keep my eye out for it!
    Genesis @ Latte Nights Reviews

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    1. Girl, you are missing out! If you don't get a chance to read it early, definitely read it post-pub. It's adult fiction (not YA).

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  15. I so want to read this book NOW!! And I love that it's adult yay!

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    1. Adult fiction (not adult romance... if you know what I mean). :D I hope you enjoy it, Eileen!

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  16. Eee! 5 stars? :D That is awesome. So glad you loved this book so much sweetie :) You just make me more and more curious about it, lol. And I love dragons. <3 And more magical creatures. And these characters sounds awesome too. Yay :)

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    1. It was SO good, Carina! I highly recommend the book!

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  17. What a sweet stand-alone! Excellently written too! Totally enjoyed the story. Loved that the dragons were able to communicate with the humans also along with the hobgoblins They were cute!:) Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. It was excellent, right? I am so glad you enjoyed this book. <333 Perhaps there will be companion novels!

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