Dec 30 2013 11:30am

First Look: Christine Warren’s Heart of Stone (December 31, 2013)

Heart of Stone by Christine WarrenChristine Warren
Heart of Stone
St. Martin's Press / December 31, 2013 / $7.99 print & digital

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.

You might think that a thousand or more years on the planet and being carved out of stone would give a gargoyle a significant advantage over a small, human woman. In Christine Warren’s Heart of Stone, however, this simply isn’t the case. And thank goodness for that! With a feisty heroine, Ella, standing up to a secret society once dominated by males, the gargoyle-turned-man known as Kees has his work cut out for him if he hopes to save the world from the demons that threaten its current existence.

Kees finds himself awakened from a sleep that spanned a few centuries, with the how and why of his waking initially unclear. The lengthy slumber is a normal thing for him in his role as one of the seven Guardians called from the ether to watch over the human race and directly oppose the evil forces of the Order of Eternal Darkness. In the past he has worked with a Warden, a magical specialist that is part of the overseeing Guild, in efforts to stave off the pure evil that wants control of our world. The sheer enormity of his “calling” could easily put him in a place of authority over Ella, particularly in his seven foot, winged natural form. But Ella isn’t willing to put up with any chauvinist bull, even from a huge, stone figure.

Not inclined to take a back seat to any man, Ella is quickly immersed in the mystery that surrounds Kees. This becomes even more true when it’s discovered that the one thing she has feared all her life turns out to be the same magic the Wardens are capable of using. With Fate taking a firm hand in throwing these two together, the battle to prove to the gargoyle that he is capable of human emotions, as much as he is capable of taking a human form, becomes nearly as big as the pending one against the all-consuming Evil that looms.

Take their earlier argument, for example. She had to wonder if he’d actually heard himself speaking. She had, and she saw right through his bellows to the meaning behind it. He worried for her. Worry. That human emotion. And felt the need to protect her, almost as if he cared (another emotion) about her. He also hadn’t liked the idea of her staying in Seattle while he returned to Vancouver one little bit. He’d sounded darn close to possessive to her.

Did she sense a theme developing?

Kees and Ella banter back and forth, each defending their positions with a certain amount of wisdom that can sometimes get lost when bigger things are at stake, the fate of the world being a notable example. Ella learns to use her newly named power while the two look into ways of finding the other six Guardians that have been moved to locations unknown to the remaining members of the Guild. They have a lot of work ahead of them, including fighting the feelings they have for each other, or even convincing Kees that he in fact has feelings in the first place.

As Ella progresses in her magical studies, she silently vows to put an end to all male influence, or pronouns at least, in the texts she’s using as reference. She is a character that seems completely in tune with her identity as a woman and the strength that that entails. But she has her own inner demons to fight from long ago, and as much as she is strong and determined, her need for protection, even if only from herself, becomes evident. This doesn’t go against her mandate for equal rights in general but, instead, highlights the co-dependence people have or need from each other. Or, in this case, the kind the human and gargoyle easily reciprocate.

Ella and Kees share their perspectives effectively in this dual point-of-view tale. We get a glimpse into their motivations and fears, and see the progression each of them makes thanks to the influence of the other. As Kees begins to see that the male-dominated ways of his past are truly ancient history, his eyes are also opened to additional possibilities, especially where Ella is concerned. She is a powerful force in bringing about change to the mythical man that exploded into her life, and she may just be the key to the future of the human race. Ella brings depth to the life Kees once thought had only a single purpose, delivering her message with intelligence, fortitude, and a seemingly unending list of stone-related puns.

Learn more or pre-order a copy of Heart of Stone by Christine Warren, available December 31, 2013:

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Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.

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