Synopsis – Merciless. Murderer. Monster. He has been called many names in his time.
Built for war and nothing else, he has witnessed every shade of violence humans know, and he has wrought his own masterpieces with their colours. He cared once, perhaps, but far too long ago. He is bound to his task, dead to the chaos he wreaks for his masters.
Now, he has a new master to serve and a new war to endure. In the far reaches of the Realm, Hartlund tears itself in two over coin and crown. This time he will fight for a boy king and a general bent on victory.
Beneath it all he longs for change. For something to surprise him. For an end to this cycle of warfare.
Every fighter has a last fight. Even one made of stone.
You couldn’t have asked for a better title for this book. Task arrives on the shores of Hartlund tired. He is sick of war, the fighting and the skinbags that repeat the same cycle over and over again. Task is a weapon, he was built for war, he will do as he is ordered, but he doesn’t like it. He yearns for the day the monotony will end. He enjoys the rain as it slowly erodes his rocks.
And then along comes the skinny skinbag Lesky, she is curious, fearless and spunky. Her mum told her that you only need to have five things in common with someone to become best friends. After discovering Task is from far away like her, they are one step closer to sealing the deal as best friends.
With a spoilt General ordering Task around, a Baroness pulling strings and a war that is all but lost, Task has his work cut out for him.
‘Coin. It nipped at the heels of power and religion in the ranking of why wars are fought. How many had those three spawned across the millennia?‘
The world that Galley has built is bleak. While the people in Hartlund are blessed with good weather and fertile ground the rest of the world is turning into a desert. The lack of resources is going to cause a world war which would be a devastating blow for the people of Hartlund who have been in a civil war for the last nine years. Their war torn country isn’t being farmed, people are being forced into the army and cities are being destroyed. Those in power don’t notice the hungry, they don’t care about who they step on, they will do whatever has to be done to win the war and keep themselves in power.
The shining beacon amongst this bleakness is the people, those who have been torn away from their homes, who think fighting this war is the best and only option for them. The people who those in power ignore. While Task is treated like a war machine, these people treat him with kindness, they show him that not everyone is like the general. It’s for those people that Task fights.
Aah Task, what a conundrum he is. Built for war, but somehow he is defected. He thinks for himself, he asks questions and he feels. While all the other Golem follow orders without thinking, Task can see the bigger picture. He does what the master bond forces him to do, but he doesn’t like it. He has numbed himself to it all, but once Lesky gets under his “skin” he finally realises that he needs to do more. He is a wonderful character. Having been around for 400 years has given him a lot of time to study human nature, the way power and greed affect people. He has more self awareness than most people. He is a character that you feel for, that you will cheer for and who you will cry for.
While the world is bleak and we are bearing witness to a terrible war we have hope, Task hopes he can finish it and make the world a better place for Lesky.
‘People don’t like the reflection of what I am to them. I may be different, all stone and dust instead of skin and blood. But they still see themselves. Copied. Faked in stone. They see their Architect’s work in something that isn’t flesh, and they can’t help but be offended by it, scared by it. Fear breeds hate.’
The Heart of Stone is fast paced. It is full of action, political intrigue, twists and turns and at it’s heart it is about friendship and hope. It’s a wonderful fantasy story that is well worth a look. In fact I recommend it to all. I have read this story twice and I was on the edge of my seat cheering and reading as fast as I could to find out what would happen next, just as much the second time. But because Galley’s writing is so beautiful I would often go back to reread paragraphs and enjoy them. He has a way with words, he pulls you into his story and doesn’t let you go, even after you close the final page, you will be thinking about Task and Lesky and how a Golem and a little skinbag could go about changing the course of the entire world.
Ben Galley is an author of dark and epic fantasy books who currently hails from Victoria, Canada. Since publishing his debut The Written in 2010, Ben has released a range of award-winning fantasy novels, including the weird western Bloodrush and the epic standalone The Heart of Stone. He is also the author of the brand new Chasing Graves Trilogy.