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The International Writers Magazine: Children's Books Review

Stone Heart
By Charlie Fletcher.
Hodder Children’s Books £5.99
ISBN-10: 0340911638
ISBN-13: 978-0340911631
Alana Hebenton review

Twelve year old outsider George is on what he thinks is just another boring school trip to the Natural History Museum, when his world gets flipped upside down and his life is transformed forever.

After being punished for yet another thing he didn’t do, George breaks the head off a dragon museum monument by punching it in a frustrated rage. Next thing George knows he is being chased by a pterodactyl carving and he has entered another realm where statues come to life.

Escaping the pterodactyl George then meets a ‘Spit’, a living statue of a person they memorise, known as the ‘Gunner’. The ‘Gunner’ reveals to George that he is now in ‘Un-London’ another world within London, where there is currently a war between the ‘Spits’ and the ‘Taints’, evil soulless statues of gargoyles and dragons.

George is then introduced to the ‘Glint’, a person, who can see the ‘Spits’ and ‘Taints’ of ‘Un-London’ and read the history of any stone they touch, in the form of a twelve year old homeless orphan girl Eddie. With Eddie and the Gunner’s help, George starts his twenty four hour frenzied adventure of ‘Un-London’. Amongst the madness George finds answers from talking Sphinxes, whilst trying to escape death from flying gargoyles and dragons.

Charlie Fletcher, like JK Rowling, manages to create a captivating land of fantasy within the everyday world of grimy London, using realistic explanations that keep the reader engaged. Charlie Fletcher also manages not to patronise his audience by presenting relatable endearing characters that have gritty back stories. His use of authentic dialogue also adds to believable feel of the characters. These features, along with the book’s movie like style, by way of its dramatic fight scenes and suspense filled chases, allow the reader to easily imagine the book on the big screen packed with special effects.

Charlie Fletcher also writes a book that can be enjoyed not only by children, who will love the book’s fantasy world of dragons and gargoyles, but by teens and older audiences, who will relate to the character’s other struggles. This is because although Charlie Fletcher’s Stone Heart is great simply on the surface as an intricate action filled novel, it also deals with the much deeper and darker issues of abandonment and isolation that the characters are experiencing in their ‘real’ lives. Both problems that older readers will be able to share with the characters. This can be seen from the way in which fighting against dragons and gargoyles is not all that twelve year old George and Eddie have in common, as both feel alone in the hard city of London. George as he is a bullied outsider with a non-attentive mother and Eddie as she is a homeless orphan living on the streets, after running away from numerous care homes. This leads to close bond being formed between the two characters.

Overall the Stone Heart is definitely a book to be read, as it takes all the things readers love about fantasy novels. With it’s use of flying dragons, talking sphinxes and living statues, it allows readers to escape the mundane reality of their everyday lives, whilst still presenting believable characters, with real issues that readers can relate with. It takes the book to another level. On top of this, Charlie’s Fletcher’s vivid imagery and descriptive language allows the reader to really feel like they are part of a thrilling whirlwind adventure around un-London, making the initially off-putting five hundred page length of the book not a problem for even the youngest of readers.
© Alana Hebenton October 2007

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