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by Charlie Fletcher

Book One in The Stoneheart Trilogy

After getting in trouble on a field trip to London’s Natural History Museum, George takes out his foul mood on one of the little creatures carved onto the museum’s exterior. He breaks off the head of a little stone dragon and pockets it. This single action turns out to have serious consequences. A stone pterodactyl peels itself off of the wall and attacks George, chasing him through the streets of London. As he runs, George can’t help but notice that he’s the only one who can see the giant bird; all around him, Londoners go about their day completely oblivious to the terrible monster. He is rescued by yet another sculpture come to life, and thus George meets the Gunner, a WWI-era soldier that introduces George to the strange new world his little act of vandalism has pulled him into. As George attempts to undo the damage he has wrought, he’s joined by Edie, a mysterious girl who can also see the moving sculptures.

The premise of this book is pretty awesome. Remember how cool it is to watch the film Night at the Museum and see all the displays come to life after the museum closes? Well, this book is like that, but instead of a single museum being affected by that magic it’s every statue or gargoyle in London. (Presumably, this would extend throughout the entire world, too.) I loved the opening chapters, as the creatures carved onto the Natural History Museum come to life. If you’ve ever seen that building, you know it’s simply covered in gargoyles, and if they all came to life at once it’d been a crazy, writhing mass of wiggling limbs.

The new London that George finds himself in – unLondon, it’s called – made me think of the mysterious ‘other’ London found in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It wasn’t all that compelling, once you got past the initial fun of living statues. There’s some sort of statuary war going on between the human-shaped “spits” and the animalistic “taints”. Someone like Edie, who can see the statues and even glimpse into the past through the memories locked within them, is known as a “glint” and distrusted by the Gunner and his friends. George, however, is a “maker” and especially good at working with his hands. (This may be passed along genetically, as George’s father was an artist before he died.) It seemed like every time the Gunner paused to explain a new term or idea, the rest of the story came screeching to a halt until George (and through him, the audience) was caught up.

As is often the pattern for the heroes of children’s adventure stories, George is essentially an orphan. His father died at some point before the book begins – George studiously avoids thinking about it throughout the story – while his mother is an actress who spends her time far from home. This certainly makes it easier for the kid to run around London at all hours…almost too easy.

Mostly, though, I was bored by the lack of menace from the main villains. The Walker and Raven, the two main antagonists, seemed to spend most of the book walking around in circles, killing time while The Exposition Machine, Also Called Gunner introduced George to his statue friends. For all the rushing about that the characters did, I felt like I spent the whole book waiting for something to happen, and the action I craved never quite materialized.

3 out of 5 stars

To read more about Stoneheart, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

One of the stone pterodactyls on the facade of the NHM


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