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‘Heart of Stone’ – C.E. Murphy

26 April, 2010

I feel like I’ve been going nowhere far too fast this week, so I don’t have a lot to blog about, but here’s another of my reviews for the LibraryThing Early Reviewers scheme. It’s another urban fantasy, as there seems to be a real lack of epic fantasy up for review. Anyway, here it is:

There seems to be an increasing trend in urban fantasy for writers to do something different. Supernatural beings who aren’t vampires or werewolves. Heroines who don’t literally kick ass. Enter Margrit Knight, a New York lawyer who’s about to be sucked into a world existing alongside our own. It’s a world which does, in fact, include vampires, but also gargoyles and a number of other ‘Old Races’ who aren’t quite the norm in urban fantasy. Margrit herself isn’t quite the norm either – aside from the occasional slap, she fights her enemies with words and intellect rather than violence.

As a consequence, Heart of Stone is somewhat slower paced than some urban fantasies I’ve read recently, though that doesn’t equate to boring. Murphy executes a sense of rising tension skilfully throughout the book, both in Margrit’s investigations and in her relationship with the gargoyle Alban Korund. It’s this relationship which forms the core emotional impact of the story and it’s a fascinating relationship, although it does mean that some of the other characters are lost by the wayside as the book progresses – Tony, for example, a key player in the first half of the book, is largely absent from the second half.

There are other problems too, although not huge ones. There are too many similar names, for one thing – Cam, Cole, Cara, Chelsea. I particularly struggled to tell Cam and Cole apart, as they’re introduced at about the same time and often appear in the same scenes. One is male and one female, but both the names sound male to my ears, hence my problem. Then there are all the loose ends. It’s clear that Heart of Stone is the beginning of a series, with many of the secondary characters feeling as if they’ll be more important in later books. Personally, I felt there were a few too many of these secondary characters, some of which didn’t really have enough to do.

Overall, Heart of Stone is probably best read by those who are already urban fantasy fans and those looking for a new series to become invested in. The characters here are strong enough and Murphy’s writing skillful enough to keep the interest of any fan, but it’s too clearly the start of series to work for a casual reader wanting only a single book.

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