Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Heart of Stone (Gargoyles #1) by Christine Warren

Ella Harrow is a psychic who keeps to herself and tries very hard to lead a quiet life.  It all changes when she is attacked at the museum where she works and a Guardian (read: Gargoyle) comes to her rescue. Suddenly, this shy woman finds herself on the run for her life in a race to keep evil from overwhelming the earth and bringing an end to humanity.  There's so much at stake and Ella can at best be described as a novice user of magic.  Somehow she has to master magic, stay alive and deal with all of the feelings which Kees arouses in her.

As you may have guessed from the man titty on the cover and the description, Heart of Stone is a paranormal romance. The plot which brings Kees and Ella together really is quite standard though it has the potential to be so much more, if Warren hadn't been so determined to push Kees and Ella together.The plot definitely suffered because of the forced romance. Having characters so quickly fall in love, particularly when Kees had completely frozen out Ella after the first time they were intimate just made the romance seem ridiculous.  It made me wonder if Ella had any self esteem at all?

 In terms of world building, Heart of Stone, would have been far more compelling had Warren focused on building her gargoyle lore. The little work Warren did with gargoyles was spotty at best.  Kees is an immortal being who spends hundreds of years sleeping until he is called to battle by a Warden. The last time he was awoken was in the 1700's and yet he supposedly has a great understanding of the world around him.  English has changed rapidly over the years and yet, Ella has no problem conversing with Kees.  When Kees needs to fly Ella home, he simply goes to the address she gives him.  How is it that a creature who has been asleep since the 1700's can navigate a city as metropolitan as Vancouver and from the air no less, yet land on the appropriate fire escape? Warren decided to present Kees as a man outside of time by his failure to understand pop culture references.  Warren explains Kees's seeming ability to navigate this world by having him slumber yet be aware.  Well, if Kees's was so aware, how come he didn't know that his Warden had been murdered years before?  A man outside of time works but only if he is actually outside of time and difficult to relate to for more reasons than he doesn't get it when he's sarcastically called Yoda.

As a protagonist, Ella alternates between absolutely submissive and irritating and feminist and strong. At the beginning of Heart of Stone, Ella is assaulted twice within the space of a few minutes. She knows that she has power that she can access to defend herself but refuses to kill her potential rapist. Ella almost instantly becomes concerned with her attackers ability to cause problems for her because of his wealth and not only refuses to call the police but almost immediately goes into denial that anything happened.  Ella is rescued from her second attack by Kees, the Gargoyle.  Rather than using her powers against either of her male attackers, Ella decides to aim her magic at Kees, though he saved her and says repeatedly that he won't hurt her.  Normally, after being saved from someone wielding a knife, more people would say thank you and not attack.

Kees is the typical Alpha male that we get in most paranormal series. Under the guise of protecting her, Kees demands to go everywhere Ella goes and even kisses her when he senses another male's interest in her. When Kees attempts to steam roll over Ella however, she doesn't stand for it for one moment.  Ella won't allow Kees to talk about her as though she isn't even in the room and refuses to allow him to make decision for her.  Ella is also quick to notice that all of these ancient organisations seem to lack female members or don't take women seriously.  Ella is absolutely adamant that this amounts to misogyny.

What a Warden intended to create, he created; what he intended to affect, he affected.
She, Ella reminded herself.  Enough with the male-centrism.  She would be a Warden one of these days, and she was very definitely not male.  Down with the patriarchy, and all that crap.  Time for the Guild to wake up and smell the twenty-first century.  (pg 147)
It's not often that a female love interest is so explicitly feminist and I have to say that is one of the few redeeming characteristics about Ella.  Now, if only wasn't so whiny.

Heart of Stone is set in Vancouver Canada and being a Canuck, I always try to read stories set in Canada.  Vancouver is a very diverse city, but nothing about Heart of Stone would lead you to believe that. Warren created an impossibly White Vancouver which made it unrecognizable.  Did the dark mages make all of the people of colour disappear?  It's absolutely ridiculous and there's no justifiable reason for this kind of erasure.  I know that Canada has the nickname, The Great White North but come the hell on already.

Like far too many books in this genre, Heart of Stone has absolutely no GLBT people.  10% of Canadians age 18-34 identify as LGBTQI but again, you wouldn't know that from reading this book. For some reason, Vancouver in this novel is portrayed as White, cisgender and straight.  Let me guess, the demons swooped in and ate all of the GLBTQI people because they are extra tasty? There's just no getting around how homophobic this erasure is.  Just because Heart of Stone is centered around Kees and Ella falling in love, is no reason to completely erase the GLBTQI community.

Heart of Stone is a completely written by the numbers PNR.  Male lover with a penis - so big his lover cannot wrap her hand around check.  Also, how the hell is that appealing?  Female protagonist who is naive and ignorant about the world? Check.  Female protagonist who wants to be saved by a man? Check.

Heart of Stone is the book that you pick up while waiting to get into the Doctor's office and then quickly put down and forget about.  It's certainly not something that you should pay money for and is a book which may make your library card give you the side eye if you borrow it.  The only selling feature to Heart of Stone is that it's a quick read, even if it will occasionally make you roll your eyes and stick entire fists through the plot holes.