The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley - The Ultimate Blog Tour

I’ve just finished Heart of Stone and what a unique, ambitious and brilliant book.

Task is a five hundred year old wind-cut golem, a purpose built war machine capable of tearing men in half, crushing cannons and rerouting entire battles in his favour. He is also an abomination. Whilst bound to a master and his orders through old magic, unlike others of his kind he is entirely self-aware, capable of doubting his own actions and the actions of those around him. This makes him a question mark but one that for some reason has survived long after almost every one of his brethren has fallen. When he is sold to his newest master his edict is a simple one. Win the war on behalf of the truly deserving side by destroying the enemy and bring peace until the land. The thing is he has seen all this before and is reaching a point where he’s wondering if he should make his own damn mind up about who the good guys actually are.

You don’t go into a book about a sentient wrecking ball without wanting some hardcore action and Galley delivers. The mind of a golem in the thick of a fight is a ferocious thing and there was enough blood and guts and rendering of human bodies to quench just about anyone’s battle thirst. Whether he is charging the lines on an open field or going alley to alley and man to man inside the walls of a formerly imposing city the energy, the flow and the stakes are perfect. It would have been easy to take this character to a point where he was not exciting because there was no threat of danger but Galley keeps him vulnerable enough that we fear for him but invulnerable enough that we can enjoy the spectacle without his unique brand of flesh pulverisation becoming rote.

Task hit the tree hard, shoulder first, splintering its trunk. The soldier wailed all the way too the ground where something crunched and silenced him.

“Mine now!” Task seized the trunk with both hands and hauled it over his knee. With his elbow, he snapped it to an oar’s length and raised it like a sword.

Humans put far too much trust in their muskets. They wielded them like wizards’ staffs, as if just pointing and praying could solve a problem.

Even an angry golem using half a tree as a club.

A few other characters make up the core of the book’s players. Lesky is a young stable girl, an absolute firecracker when it comes to guts and spirit and one of the few people to view task with curiosity instead of fear. Her straight talking nature as well as her relative innocence with compared to the rest of the skin bags results in her and Task forming an interesting friendship. We also have Alabast, the enemies answer to Task, the Knight who slayed the last known dragon and has been living off the accomplishment ever since whilst ensuring that he never again entered again took a fight he didn’t know he could win. There’s the schemeing Ellia, a woman with as many identities as sides to her duplicitous nature, who is playing a long game that no one has any idea about and a general or two. There were a couple of assholes I cared just enough about to hope that they would find some redemption and one I was not upset to see taken as a spoil of war. It’s a strong ensemble and one I enjoyed.

Another I enjoyed in the book was the real connection it has to the earth and the land it takes place upon, because it helps us inhabit the mind of a Task in a better fashion. He feels every vibration and can in fact read the story of a stone by laying his hand upon it and by the end of the book it felt like I had a real sense of the feel and layout and smell of the land.

Roads are like roots. Intrepid things, roaming the landscape in their first for use: for boots to grace their dirt or stones, or for weary paws and wheels to rattle over them. When they find it, they gorge themselves, swelling up and up until the tangle and knot, growing villages between their lattices. Then they must stretch out again, questing for grounds ever new. And so grows a country.

It was a bit like hanging out with the crazy earth bender from Avatar and becoming more aware of everything happening around the action rather than the action itself.

Heart of Stone is a fantastic book and as a protagonist Task is truly unique and special. He is a force of nature with a heart of gold, you love him, you respect him, you get the feeling he would die for you but you sure as hell don’t want to get on his bad side………basically he is Keanu Reeves. The standard of the writing and the prose is much that would expect from a debut novel and I look forward to picking up some of his other books that have been released since this one. Heart of Stone has been on my tbr list for ages but I needed a little encouragement because I hadn’t yet read anything by Ben Galley. Being a part of the WriteReads Ultimate Blog Tour gave me the impetus I needed and I hope this review does the same for others.

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.

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