HEARTSTONE by Elle Katharine White – Review

I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

HEARTSTONE by Elle Katharine White – ReviewHeartstone by Elle Katharine White
Published by Harper Voyager on January 17 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

The nitty-gritty: An imaginative Pride and Prejudice retelling that will delight readers with its incredible world-building, deft characterizations and thrilling action.

When I heard this book described as “Pride and Prejudice with dragons,” my first reaction was “Yes!” But then I thought, “Huh? That sounds…weird?” This was an odd book for me because of the strange mix of elements that don’t quite seem to fit together. And yet, I loved it! How can one book evoke such mixed feelings? Even as I was gasping at White’s wonderfully unique world building, I couldn’t get over the fact that her story was literally matching the plot of Pride and Prejudice beat for beat. It was an unsettling feeling for me, as I knew exactly what was going to happen next in some spots. The story had two distinct parts for me–the conservative and proper beginning, and the all-out violent battle at the end. But one thing is certain: I could not stop turning the pages.

If you’ve read Jane Austen’s classic, then you have an idea of what you’re in for—well, at least until the dragons show up. Aliza Bentaine (Elizabeth Bennett) lives with her parents and three sisters Anjey, Leyda and Mari in Merybourne Manor, a modest home in Hart’s End. But their peaceful life has been shattered by a recent influx of gryphons in the nearby Witherwood, and even worse, Aliza’s little sister Rina was killed by one not too long before the story begins. Mr. Bentaine has decided to hire a group of Riders, warriors who fly on the backs of dragons, to rid Hart’s End of the deadly gryphons. Mrs. Bentaine is all aflutter with the arrival of the Riders, who include the handsome but ill-tempered Alastair Daired (Mr. Darcy) and the much more pleasant Mr. Brysney (Mr. Bingley), who is immediately drawn to Anjey (Jane). Mrs. Bentaine wants nothing more than to see all her daughters married and safely out of harm’s way, and she takes every opportunity to encourage Brysney and Anjey’s budding relationship.

Meanwhile, there are rumors and rumblings that an ancient and terrible creature is about to arise, a creature that could threaten everyone, not only in Hart’s Run but throughout the land. Will the Riders be able to stop the creature? Aliza might not be a Rider herself, but her kind and brave nature ensures that she will do everything in her power to help, no matter how dangerous the task.

Wow, where do I even start? Before I talk about the Pride and Prejudice aspects of the story, I must address the stunning world-building that lies within these pages. This is White’s debut novel, I believe, but her imaginative and addictive world feels as if it was written by a seasoned writer. Setting aside the fact that this is a re-telling of a classic novel, let’s take a look at some of the wonderful elements of Heartstone. White’s world is built on the premise that dragons are fierce but intelligent creatures who bond with humans of a certain social standing. These Riders protect the land and are highly respected and paid for their services. My favorite part about the dragons was that they talk, and in the beginning of the story, Aliza instantly bonds with Daired’s dragon Akarra. Daired’s ancestral home of Castle Pendragon even has huge open spaces and high ceilings so that the dragons can dine with their Riders!

The bond between dragons and Riders is so strong, that not even grave injury can keep them apart. Such is the case with one of the characters, Daired’s young sister Julienna whose wyvern was badly injured and is unable to fly. That doesn’t prevent Julienna from joining the Riders on the ground, though.

On the other side of the coin are the Tekari, dangerous beasts like gryphons, direwolves, and lamia (terrifying half-woman, half-snake creatures) who want nothing more than to kill humans. One of the jobs of the Riders is to protect people from the Tekari, but it’s a perilous job with a high mortality rate. But as scary as the Tekari are, the title of the book refers to something pretty cool. All Tekari have a precious gemstone embedded in their hearts, and when they are slain, these “heartstones” fetch a pretty penny for those lucky enough to acquire one. In one scene, Aliza and her sisters visit the shop of a heartstone merchant and gaze in wonder at the beauty and variety of the stones. And in typical Jane Austen romantic fashion, heartstones are used to woo potential husbands and wives, much like a diamond ring in our reality.

I loved the characters, although I won’t go into too much detail. Aliza is a wonderfully spunky and kind girl, and I loved her even more when she makes friends with Akarra. Daired was a very good Darcy, in my opinion, and he’s even more attractive because he’s a Rider. One of the best parts of Pride and Prejudice is its subtle romance, and White does a great job of creating chaste but heart fluttering relationships between several couples.

Which brings me to the Pride and Prejudice parts. I know some readers won’t agree with me when I say I almost wish the story hadn’t been a re-telling at all, but simply a wonderful fantasy about dragons and their riders. The first half of the book mirrors Austen’s story almost exactly. Even the characters’ names are similar to the original story, so it wasn’t hard to tell who was who. The story begins with the gentle familiarity of Austen’s classic. The women and girls wear dresses (although the younger girls do try to get away with wearing pants now and then), write letters to each other, and attend dances and banquets. Aliza is an artist and spends hours drawing and painting. But little by little, as the fantastical elements of this world are introduced, the story starts to veer away from Austen’s in subtle ways. And the more it veered, the more I loved it. Don’t’ get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, but even after having finished the book a couple of weeks ago, I still feel an odd disparity between the fantasy elements and the conservative Austen parts of the story.

There’s plenty of swordplay and thrilling action in Heartstone, which might surprise those expecting a more prim and genteel story. But the best surprise for me took place in the last quarter of the book, when the action ramps up to a truly exciting conclusion. Even jaded fantasy fans will love the bloody, high stakes battle at the end. White isn’t afraid of graphic violence and slaying her characters, although keep in mind that the author follows the Pride and Prejudice plot line, so you can expect at least some good news by the time the story’s over. Just saying.

But no matter what my opinions of the re-telling parts are, I can tell you one thing for sure: I would LOVE to visit White’s world again! I know this is a stand-alone, but her world is so rich and intricate, and there seems to be so much more to explore. Elle Katharine White is an author to watch. I’ll be eagerly awaiting her next move.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

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Posted January 13, 2017 by Tammy in 4 1/2 stars, Reviews / 34 Comments


34 responses to “HEARTSTONE by Elle Katharine White – Review

    • Tammy

      I loved these dragons, which is one reason I’d love to read more about them. They are highly respected and cared for.

    • Tammy

      Really? I didn’t know that. That will certainly affect the number of readers this book gets to. I hope they decide to release in print as well.

  1. Tammy V.

    The cover on this is amazing. I love P & P retellings but I never thought dragons would be involved. Zombies, yes, but dragons?

    • Tammy

      I didn’t mention the cover, but I’m glad you brought it up. It’s beautiful, right?

  2. I’ve had my eyes on this one forever and will be glad to finally get a copy in my grubby little hands. I think I will love this one, because (don’t throw things guys) I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice. I’m not much into classics and while I wish I were, this may be one time I will be glad I’m not. Great review and glad you enjoyed it!
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    • Tammy

      Thanks Barb, I do think you might have an advantage having NOT read it. I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts!

  3. Intriguing, and fascinating: your description of this world – and its creatures! – would be enough to make me run and grab the book 🙂 and I don’t think I would mind much the comparison with the original Pride and Prejudice, on the contrary I think I would find it amusing. At least much more amusing than might be the re-telling called “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies”… 😀
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    • Tammy

      Ha ha, the Wickham character is pretty horrible in this story, but I won’t spoil things and tell you what happens:-)

  4. The cover of this one caught my eye and I’ve been curious ever since. Pride and Prejudice- mirroring the plot- plus dragons- that IS unique. And gryphons, direwolves and lamias too? Sounds fun. 🙂 I’m not sure the P & P elements would be my thing (then again it might work, who knows?) but it definitely sounds like it gets intense towards the end. The dragons sound fabulous.
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    • Tammy

      It might work really well for you if you aren’t that familiar with P&P, then you can just enjoy the fantasy elements and not evaluate how closely the plot followed Austen’s, which was a bit distracting for me.

    • Tammy

      My rating was a toss up for a while. It was always going to be four stars, but the ending sealed the deal, and even with the issues I had, I had to bump it up because of the action at the end:-)

  5. Wow! It’s a high compliment to say it could stand on its own, without the P&P. I’ve had my eye on this one anyway, but your review makes me even more eager to try it out. It’s definitely on my 2017 tbr now! Thanks 😀

    • Tammy

      I think I would have enjoyed it slightly more if it had just been a story, not a retelling. But then I guess it wouldn’t have been THIS book, so never mind!

  6. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don’t have to disown you, Tammy!!!! (I’m totally kidding… right?) 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 I am so glad you enjoyed this book! I had a feeling that you would, because it definitely felt like something you’d enjoy, but of course you never know. Ahhh! This review makes me so happy! I think the book is a standalone for now but let’s hope she’s writing more retelling-esque stories in the future. 😀

    Wonderful review, Tammy!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!
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  7. You can tell I’m going through your email post notifications, huh? 😀

    Pride And Prejudice with dragons :0 oh my god – it does sound quite awesome. But it’s one of those premises that can go south really fast. Glad it seems it didn’t 🙂 and I have to say, you’re selling this well. I’m going to check it out 🙂
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  8. Penny Olson

    It sounds like a creative retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I’m glad that the world building was excellent, that can be a downfall of so many fantasy novels. Thanks for the review!