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Stone Heart

Stone Heart          
Charlie Fletcher
October 2006
Hodder Children's Books
                        496 pages


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"It wasn't anything human.
      It wasn't anything possible.
      It was, however, peeling itself off the stone facade of
      the museum and looking at George with flat, blank hatred..."


       George Chapman is on a school trip to the Natural History Museum, in
       London, and he's having a tough time of things. When he's unjustly punished
       for something he didn't do, his anger wells over and he breaks the head off
       a carved stone dragon outside the building... and immediately... his world
       is turned upside down...

       George's actions awake a malevolent statue. Yep, you heard that right. A stone
       statue comes to life. A pteradactyl, as it happens. It can't be seen by anyone
       but George. But it's real, and alive, and it's after him. And pretty soon, he
       finds himself up to his neck in trouble in a parallel London, where there are
       good statues (Spits) and bad statues and gargoyles (Taints) abroad - the
       latter of whom all have George firmly in their sights. Fortunately, he's taken
       under the wing of a friendly statue called the Gunner and together, he and
       another outsider - a tearaway girl called Edie - must find a way to make things
       right again. And that's where our title comes in, because three riddling
       Spinxes instruct them to seek out the Stone Heart, and quite what, or whom
       that might be is anyone's guess. But time is of the essence, and George's
       future and that of London itself now lie in his hands...

» This is the first in a trilogy. The second book, Iron Hand was
           published in September 2007...

       » Paramount Pictures has optioned the film rights to the series...


       Spits and Taints?

       It's all very simple. A Spit is a statue that's been fashioned after the image
       of a living person, such as a famous face from history. When these statues
       come to life, they're invested with the spirit of that person too. They're the
       spitting image, if you like...

       As for those Taints, well, they include the likes of gargoyles, creatures of
       mythology, animals and abstract conceptions. There's nothing human about
       these things at all, which makes them mad, bad and decidedly dangerous
       to know...


       The Gnome says

       Stone Heart has a cracking conceit behind it. The notion of London's
       statues coming to life is terrific, and the author starts his story strongly.
       George's discomfort and rising ire is adroitly conveyed, and there's
       something about the pacing and the flow of the subsequent action as
       he flees the museum that feels so very filmic. George stumbles
       blindly upon the Gunner and Edie, and we're hooked and eager to
       find out how things will develop...

       So the spine of the tale is - er - rock solid. And the premise of the Spits
       versus Taints is sound. But as we progress, we're told that there are
       specific rules governing the statues' animation and the relationship
       between those Spits and Taints, and even though you know the author
       has worked hard to create his new world and all its boundaries, it still
       feels somewhat arbitrary. Stuff about being back on your plinth by the
       turn of the day. Some being able to walk, whilst others must forfeit
       this ability.

       And then we learn that the statues exist on a separate layer, or plain,
       to us, and that there are in fact several different layers for us to get our
       heads around. We learn that Edie's actually a Glint, who harbours the
       ability to "see" through stone, to its traumatic past. And George has
       his own secret skill too. He finds himself holed up with a curious new
       character known only as the Clocker. Oh, and there's a quasi-immortal
       bad man called the Walker who's in pursuit of our trio and who, ultimately,
       cuts through the story to take centrestage and lead us into the next book
       of the trilogy.

       There's a lot going on here, and it gets a little clunky at times, almost
       as if the author is trying too hard to create this new world. It can be done
       more nimbly than this - Skulduggery Pleasant being a prime example.
       But let's not be too harsh, because the author has fashioned an otherwise
       solid start to his trilogy. George's emotional journey is vividly described.
       The Grid Man is great. The showdown at London's Monument landmark
       works very well, and there are some deft little turns in the final encounter,
       before we're left dangling with the prospect of those sequels.

       Most importantly of all, there are the beings at the heart of this fantasy.
       The statues. The author has taken real, existing creations and brought
       them to life. We can look them up on the map on the endpapers of the
       hardback edition and trace George's travels around the city. That's fantastic.
       This reader found himself flicking back to that map as he progressed, and
       putting together a virtual tour. Why, the Tourist Board must be rubbing
       their hands with glee. And
the Book Gnome is ready and waiting for
       the sequel...



       Unfortunately for folks who like their signatures, the author wasn't all
       that well when the book was first published, which has made signed
       first editions rather scarce. But there are some out there on the
       collectors market... If you've the time to search... And cash to
       spare, because dealers are charging a tidy sum for 'em!...


      Buy this book

      Stoneheart                    Stoneheart
      UK Hardback edition...        UK  Paperback edition...


      On the web

      Meet The Author
      Mr Fletcher talks about his book...

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