Monday, December 28, 2009

Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher.

Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher
First in a Trilogy
Young Adult, 480 pages
Published April 15, 2008 by Hyperion Books

A city has many lives and layers. London has more than most. Not all the layers are underground, and not all the lives belong to the living. Twelve-year-old George Chapman is about to find this out the hard way. When, in a tiny act of rebellion, George breaks the head from a stone dragon outside the Natural History Museum, he awakes an ancient power. This power has been dormant for centuries but the results are instant and terrifying: A stone Pterodactyl unpeels from the wall and starts chasing George. He runs for his life but it seems that no one can see what he's running from. No one, except Edie, who is also trapped in this strange world. And this is just the beginning as the statues of London awake? This is a story of statues coming to life; of a struggle between those with souls and those without; of how one boy who has been emotionally abandoned manages to find hope.

I have had Stoneheart on my To Be Read list for a while now, but it wasn't available at my local library and I didn't quite want to shell out the money to buy it. Not when we have such fantastic books like the Hunger Games to buy. But the Lords of Reading smiled down on me when a friend walked into school one day, carrying this book. I gasped out that I have been wanting to read this book for ages, and she kindly lent it to me (once she was done, of course). It has an amazing premise: not only is there a London out there that the ordinary people can see, but Londons hidden away beneath it that we may never know about. One of these is filled with gargoyles and stone dragons and many other terrible, fantastical things. Needless to say, it sounds just like my kind of book. George is a young boy with mature problems weighing down on him. He has no one to turn to with these problems: not his carefree actress mother who is never home, or the rotten boys at school who torture him. He bottles these problems up inside, until one day they come spilling out in the worst way possible. He lashes out at a statue and miraculously knocks it's head off instead of being hurt by it. The chase gives way as the statue's mate decides to get revenge on George. George has unleashed a force he knows nothing about and has no way to stop. He must find allies quick before the statues destroy him.

Stoneheart is a hit-the-ground-running type of book. Since the moment George decapitates the statue, the readers have to dodge and digest the amount of information that keeps being thrown at them. There is definately never a dull moment in this book. As a reader, I don't need to be told everything, but I don't enjoy being told little to nothing and being kept in the dark for most of the book. Stoneheart is one of those books. I understand that the author is setting up for sequels; this is made obvious by the lip-biting cliffhanger at the end and the fact that the cover tells you its a trilogy. But I had to keep asking my friend, "Now when do we figure out about so-and-so?" or "Who the *%#@ is that guy?" Sometimes I would completely blank on important details and have to take a few minutes to regather my evidence, like Nancy Drew, to figure out the mystery. Just so you know, you never figure out the mystery in this book. It's like a Series of Unfortunate Events book; you're left with more clues and loose ends than answers. I can't wait to get my hands on the next books to find out what's going on. The plot jumps from high-speed foot chases and shady might-be-helpful might-be-backstabbing good/bad guys. I still haven't figured out what side they fall on.

One thing I loved about this book was the layers of London. I think the author did a excellent job of putting this in to perspective for the reader. No one from the 'normal London' can see George and Edie while they are interacting with statues. They could be seconds away from death, crying for help from the hordes of people surrounding them, and no one even glances up. They are living their daily lives, riding bicycles, laughing while a dragon could be scorching up a little twlve-year-old boy next to them. It was fantastic to imagine. I have never been to London, but I imagined a crowded city like New York. I can't picture how lonely it would be to be surrounded by people on the streets of a busy city and to be completely alone in a crisis like that. I felt empathy for George and Edie because they had no one to turn to, not even the police, because no one could see what they could see. That's not to say they were completely alone. There had the good and faithful Gunner, a fellow statue on the good side.

The characterzation was nothing too special. Edie was the plucky orphan with a shady past, but there is more to her than meets the eye. I can't wait to learn more about her in the books to come. We are never really given the full details of her childhood and how she came to be in London. Not to mention the fantastic cliffhanger that I can't even begin to explain. George was sort of whiny and selfish, but he grows into a bit of a man by the end of Stoneheart. I expect he has much more growing to do by the end of the series. I don't think these series are very well known, which is a shame because they are super fun to read. I had a good time with them. They recalled a rollicking adventure that didn't involve vampires, but another type of spooky supernatural beings that contained more than meets the eye.

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