Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

The trilogy begun in The Nameless City continues here in The Stone Heart -- and, as we all know about trilogies, that means that this book will be darker than the first and have less of an ending. Both of those things are true, and I'll also note that some of the things I grumped about in the world-building of the first book are muted or explained otherwise here -- I don't think Hicks even knew my post existed; just that those are obvious questions that she either already had in mind or had raised to her by librarians or readers or her editors.

So: we're still in not-13th century China, in the city that is officially Nameless in this book (I don't think anyone calls it DanDao, the official name under the current conquerors). Our heroes Kaidu (teen son of a conquering general) and Rat (orphan teen daughter of locals killed by those conquerors and raised by the local monks) saved the life of the General of All Blades in the previous book, making them moderately important and influential. That General, in fact, has come around to the idea that Nameless should be governed by an independent council, made up of representatives of the great warring nations and the locals. It hasn't happened yet, but the current set of conquerors are moving forward to make it happen -- if one of the other major warring nations can be brought on board.

Not everyone agrees with that utopian dream, of course -- particularly not young Dao lordlings who currently expect to grow up to rule this great city and who would be exiled from it under the proposed plan. And lordlings in a feudal society have violent options to stop changes they don't like.

Things get dark -- again, this is the middle book of a trilogy, so that's to be expected. Our heroes can't save the day if the day doesn't need to be saved. There is a lot of age-appropriate death and destruction before the end of The Stone Heart, and there is a day that is definitely endangered. It will probably be another year before the concluding third book, The Divided Earth, which may test the patience of some younger readers (and, who knows? older ones as well). But, from the evidence here, Hicks will reward that wait -- she's been telling great comics stories for a while now, and this trilogy shows her stretching to a larger canvas and doing a great job of it.

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