The recent craze for “mashups” – books that combine elements of classic titles with elements from the more bizarre or unusual genres – has given us books such as “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. “Heartstone”, while not an overt mashup, is, in essence, “Pride and Prejudice”…with dragons.
The heroine of the story, Aliza Bentaine, is young, headstrong, and concerned about the situation her home, Merybourne Manor, is in. Never a rich Manor, Merybourne is in dire straits due to the recent attacks by a horde of gryphons. Aliza’s family is particularly distraught as their youngest daughter, Katarina, was killed by a gryphon three months before the story begins. Aliza is haunted by the image of her sister’s body lying broken, her throat torn open by the cruel claws of the gryphon. As a result of this attack, the Lord of the Manor has scraped together money to hire Riders to deal with the threat
The story starts with a lighthearted interaction between Aliza, a hobgoblin named Tobble and Alaistair Daired, proud and haughty Rider of the dragon Akarra. And much like “Pride and Prejudice”, the relationship between Aliza and Alaistair is challenged by attitudes and prejudices they both must overcome. Fraught with misunderstandings fed by societal stratification, the couple spend a great deal of the novel denying their growing feelings for each other.
In a clear parallel to “Pride and Prejudice”, secondary characters also play their own roll in the misunderstandings and missed connections. The character of Brysney, Alaistair’s friend and fellow Rider (although unlike the Daired family, Brysney and his sister have bonded with wyverns instead of dragons), parallels Charles Bingley, and his relationship with Aliza’s older sister throws our two protagonists together repeatedly throughout the story. Similarly, Aliza’s parents closely parallel the Bennet parents in “Pride and Prejudice”, and the characters of Eliza’s best friend Gwyn, Curdred, the heir of the Manor due to Lord Marybourne’s unfortunate lack of children, Alaistair’s Aunt Catriona, and Aliza’s aunt and uncle all draw their motivations and contributions to the plot from the original story.
However, the character of Akarra, the dragon, is unique to “Heartstone”. Whimsical and wise, Akarra sees the real Aliza from the beginning and is instrumental in ensuring our hero and heroine but aside their preconceived notions and learn to see each other’s true selves. Akarra breaks with dragon tradition, risking the wrath of the Drakaina, to carry Aliza on a mission to save Alaistair when he is wounded in a fierce battle with the Greater Lindworm, a battle during which he also saves Aliza’s younger sister from being used as bait for the Worm by Alaistair’s foster brother, Wydrick, a cruel man who paid his foster family back in an unimaginably evil manner.
This story contains more plot twists and characters than its 333 pages would suggest, and even with the close parallels to a story familiar to many, manages to offer enough mystery to keep the reader turning the pages.
Deana Cunningham is the Branch Manager at May Memorial Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org