White, Elle Katharine. Flamebringer. New York: Harper Voyager, 2019.
Paperback | $16.9 USD | INbN-13: 978-0062747983 | 351 pages | Fantasy
Flamebringer is the final installment in the Heartstone series, and it’s bittersweet to see it come to an end. It’s also wonderful to marvel at how much development has happened over the course of three books, with book one paying homage to Pride and Prejudice, and the other two books building from there.
Thus, this book is considerably darker than I would’ve expected going in, especially reflecting on the first book. On the one hand, I love that White embraces these epic fantasy stakes, and allows for major consequences and loss, a flaw with many fantasy series where all the important characters survive to the end. But, given the source material, it’s hard not to feel a little betrayed when a character inspired by a beloved major character in a classic is killed off.
But the exploration of the characters and their growth in this one is wonderful, particularly that of the protagonist, Aliza and her husband, Daired, especially as they discover more about his family’s past. One of the moments that really stands out to me is the revelation of the deeper connection between Wydrick and the Daired family, particularly Daired’s own disbelief and shock.
This is a great third installment, and fans of the series and those looking to see characters inspired by beloved classic Austen ones go into a darker, grittier direction will love this.
White, Elle Katharine. Dragonshadow. New York: Harper Voyager, 2018.
Paperback | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062747969 | 383 pages | Fantasy
A direct sequel to what seems like an already-concluded story can be risky, especially if that story is inspired by Pride and Prejudice, which itself has some hit-or-miss sequels. But it appears that Elle Katharine White has managed it, and while the plot itself isn’t necessarily the most engaging now that she isn’t sticking to the frame of Austen’s narrative, there are still things to love about Dragonshadow.
The main thing I enjoyed is seeing more of the world White created, which was one of the standout features of Heartstone. While dragons still feature prominently, I loved getting a wider sense of the scope, including the other creatures, and while many will be familiar to fantasy readers, like trolls and merpeople, they are included in such a fun and unique way.
I also really liked White’s perspective on Aliza and Daired after they’ve gotten together, and how, even though they did come to terms with some of the issues keeping them apart in the prior book, there are still hurdles they are negotiating, especially as Aliza is attempting to adjust to her new role as a Dragonrider’s wife, and him wanting to shield her from it, while she’s determined to be a part of it.
I think fans of the first book who are interested in seeing more of the world and how the major characters progress from the first book will enjoy this one, and would recommend they do so, in spite of any preconceived notions.
White, Elle Katharine. Heartstone. New York: Harper Voyager, 2016.
Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062451941 | 336 pages | Fantasy
A mix of preparing to read the second book in preparation for the release of the third (but having forgotten the specifics of this one) and the recent uptick in new Austen retellings in other genres led me to feel the urge to revisit Heartstone. And while I still enjoyed it much more this time around, my recent renewed interest in fantasy, which wasn’t the case so much last time, led to me finding new things to enjoy apart from this new take on the story itself.
One of the things I continue to love is the way the story was adapted to suit the new world, especially in terms of how it deals with the class conflict at the center of the plot. While there are elements While clearly makes her own, I could easily recognize the struggle between the nakla and the Dragon Riders and empathize with them.
The wider world of the story is also incredibly rich with history and lore, ensuring that this is just one adventure with these characters and this world, and that I was even more excited for the succeeding books and how they develop things from there, especially with the creative turn the last few chapters took.
I still very much love this book, and would still recommend this to fans of Austen retellings, especially if they also happen to be fans of epic fantasy.
White, Elle Katharine. Heartstone. New York: Harper Voyager, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-245194-1. Print List Price: $15.99.
I tend to be rather picky when I see books that proclaim their association to Austen, as I tend to judge those very critically. And with the popularity in the last few years of slightly more…shall we say…interesting…variations, that incorporate the supernatural or the fantastical, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I find myself skeptical if these can work, both feeling faithful to the source material, while also adding something fresh and captivating to the “Austen-verse.”
But White’s novel does both. While in many ways to does follow the basic structure of Pride and Prejudice, the characters’ motivations and actions are subtly changed to suit the new setting. And one of my favorite changes is that this version doesn’t have plot points revolving around the ruin of reputations, at least in the sense of slut-shaming, and rank, at least in the sense of nobility isn’t a factor. Instead the main focus is on the elitism of the Dragon Riders, and the Daired family connection to it, and how Julienna’s chances were comprised due to Wydrick jealously maiming her dragon. And Lady Catriona is welcoming toward Aliza when it seems things are headed in the direction of marriage with Daired, and Drakaina is the one who disapproves.