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...
is the first in a trilogy. The second book, Iron
in September 2007...
Pictures has optioned the film rights to the series...
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
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
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
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
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!...
UK Hardback edition... UK Paperback
Mr Fletcher talks about his book...
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