Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Heart of Stone: Review
Book: Heart of Stone
Author: C.E. Murphy
Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: Negotiator Trilogy, Book 1
Margrit Knight is a tough New York City attorney. She spends her days as a Legal Aid attorney and her nights running in Central Park. One night while running Margrit comes across a man in the park who sets her on edge. The guy is very tall, pale and blonde. After a brief exchange with the stranger Margrit leaves. That night while watching the news she learns that there has been a murder in Central Park. A woman was killed and the man described by the witness sounds a lot like the man she came across in the park.
Margrit takes this knowledge to her on/off again boyfriend and cop, Tony, thinking that it would be the last bit of involvement she would have with the case. But the man from the park seeks Margrit out. His name is Alban and he claims he's innocent but needs Margrit's help to prove it. Margrit is wary of him as he has done a few things that seem beyond human capability. To get her to trust him completely Alban lays it all on the table and reveals his true nature to Margrit, showing her that he is a gragoyle. After inexplicable proof, Margrit has no choice but to believe Alban. And when another murder happens in Central Park and Alban is with her at the time, she believes him to be truly innocent of the crimes and sets out to help him.
Through helping Alban, Margrit gets sucked into the world of the Old Races. She becomes a one woman avenger for a selkie who has had her pelt stolen, a go between for a Vampire and a Dragon, and a defender for Alban. All the while having Tony and the police department breathing down her neck, and unknowingly being targeted by the real killer behind the Central Park deaths.
Heart of Stone started out a little slow for me. I liked the tone of the book and the characters, but the story drug along for about the first 200 pages, laying the groundwork for what was to come, I think. After that passed, the story took off at break-neck speed and didn't let up. Margrit was a sore spot for me at first, too. She came off harsh in the beginning chapters, and I could find no real reason in the story or her back story as for why she was so snappish. But as the story picked up, I began to warm to Margrit, and by the end I really liked her.
Criticisms aside, I did enjoy most of the book. The list of characters is a little long, but not hard to keep track of. I really liked Daisani, the vampire businessman, and Janx, the dragon gangster. Margrit's interactions with them were some of my favorite scenes. I also enjoyed Alban. He is a little unsure of himself when it comes to Margrit and he's not the aggressor in the relationship, but he had a strong presence that made him great. I loved that Margrit is an African American protagonist. It is rare to come across a series centered around an AA character, especially one not written by an AA author. I always applaud writers that are able to step outside of racial boundaries and write about multicultural characters. (One of the reasons why I heart Nalini Singh as well).
As far as beginnings go, I think that Heart of Stone is a strong one. Ms. Murphy's writing and characterization is strong, as is her world building. The Old Races is an interesting take on paranormal mythology, one that I found refreshing. The story ended with a thread that promised more to come, but enough closure to make the book satisfying, and aside from my minor qualms--I really enjoyed Heart of Stone. Grade B-.