Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Heart of Stone by Christine Warren

The Basics:
Heart of Stone by Christine Warren
St Martin's Paperbacks
First in the Gargoyles series
Published December 31, 2013
Amazon.ca Kobo.com

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From bestselling author Christine Warren comes a thrilling new series about a young woman caught between a rock and a hard place—between gargoyles and demons…

Ella Harrow is trying to carve out a normal life for herself. Well, as normal as an art geek with psychic abilities can hope for. As museum docent and gift-shop manager, Ella is able to keep her distance from people—and her powers in check—while surrounding herself with the artifacts she loves. But how on earth is she supposed to act normal when a thousand-year-old statue on the museum’s terrace suddenly comes to life?


Not your ordinary gargoyle, Kees has been asleep for eons, waiting for a portent of evil to wake him from his slumber. Kees isn’t a vision; he’s a bat-winged guardian created to protect the world from the seven demons of the Dark. Somehow, Ella triggered his reawakening. Maybe the demons have been unleashed? Maybe his heart is finally ready to be chiseled open? The fate of the world isn’t carved in stone… yet.

Why I picked up this book:

Gargoyle love? I was willing to give it a shot.

My thoughts:

This book starts with a bang - we're right in the action from the very start when Ella is attacked by one of the museum's patrons. And right away, I felt like this book was a little unpolished. There was something about it that felt a little bit rough, and unfocused.

I loved the concept of Guardians-as-grotesques, summoned to protect humankind from demons, locked as statues when their presence isn't needed. Competing secret societies - one pro-survival of humanity and one pro-demons - also appealed to me. There's also a seemingly non-complex magic system in place. Ella's got a natural talent for it, and describes it as mostly intent, though it seems there are also keywords necessary to trigger spells - or perhaps act as focal points for them. There did seem to be an energy pay-off for using magic, but having those consequences a bit more present in the story would have been a nice touch.

I didn't love-love either Ella or Kees - I think I preferred him slightly as he kind of bull-in-a-china-shopped around. His struggle with what he knew to be true and with what he was experiencing was reasonably entertaining. Ella had to work through some childhood issues, plus confronting the discovery that the weird power she kept trying to suppress was actually magic. (Sidenote: her incredulity when Kees explained this had me rolling my eyes. Yes, it was a weird power, but she's lived with it all her life and what else could it be, really?)

I liked the overarching story, and that we reach out to the woman who, I presume, will be the focus of the second book in the series. I'm looking forward to that one as I've actually been to Montreal and so infrequently read books set in places that I've been....

Otherwise, there's some unexpectedly graphic sex in this book - it was well written, I thought, and appropriate in context, but definitely more than I anticipated reading. I liked the explanation Kees gave for shifting into his human form - it was a nice touch and a happy way to avoid dancing around gargoyle-human sex which might not go over well with a mainstream audience.

Bottom line:

I can recommend this for fans of the sub-genre - paranormal romance, and particularly people burnt out on vampires and shifters. I'd probably align this with the angels and demons niche, because the gargoyle/guardian thing is fairly close (as long as we're not getting too Biblical!)

Felt like the beginning needed one more dose of polish, but overall, an entertaining story!

3.5 reaching ever so close to 4 stars
For fans of paranormal romance, gargoyles, something different from vampires and shifters, museums

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