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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher (reviewed by Łukasz Przywóski)




Official Author Website
Order Black Stone Heart over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Smoke and Stone
Raed our interview with Michael R. Fletcher


OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Michael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author, a grilled cheese aficionado, and a whiskey-swilling reprobate. He spends his days choreographing his forklift musical (titled "Get Forked"), and using caffeine as a substitute for sanity. Any suggestions that he is actually Dyrk Ashton in disguise are all lies.


FORMAT/INFO: Black Stone Heart is 487 pages long divided over 41 numbered chapters and is the first entry in The Obsidian Path series. The author self-published it in April 2020. Cover art by Felix Ortiz. You can pick it in paperback, ebook and audiobook (narrated by the author himself!) formats.



OVERVIEW: When Khraen wakes up, he has almost no memories of his past. It included violence, murder, and hacking his own chest open but other than that? Hard to say. 



He doesn’t act like a human being; rather as a savage creature focused on survival, living off bugs and roots. Only after finding an obsidian shard that pierces his skin and finds its way to his heart, he regains parts of his identity.

His integration into the local society gets tricky, especially that he has no marketable skills beyond killing children and women. His actions stem from the urge to follow the remaining shards of his heart scattered around the world. After getting each shard Khraen undergoes a painful process of integration during which he regains some memories of the past. And with them comes a growing sense of unease - it’s possible people hate him for a reason other than the color of his skin. It’s possible his past actions had disastrous consequences.

With its breakneck pace, excellent banter, wild twists and reveals, Black Stone Hearts bullies you into liking it. There’s no time not to. Things happen and they are exciting. Yes, I know that I write vaguely about this book but I do it out of a desire not to spoil it. The plot is fairly simple (protagonist and narrator regains parts of his heart, gets drunk and laid, regains his memories, travels to impossible places, meets old friends and foes, discovers his violent past) and most of the fun comes from experiencing events with Khraen and seeing how they change him. Fletcher has a knack for characterization and, surprisingly, for crafting entertaining and dark comedy. It’s a dark book and yet it made me laugh multiple times. 

He brilliantly captures the change of Khraen’s voice as he ponders on his identity and the essence of identity in general. Each new Shard allows Khraen to reassemble himself and regain his memories. If you’ve already read Fletcher, you know better than to expect happy endings and uplifting mood. Here, though, the darker side of the story hides behind the darkly humorous voice.

Make no mistake, Khraen and his companions aren’t good guys (although one question Fletcher asks is about the nature of evil - is a predator evil when it feeds itself to survive?). One of them, a necromancer, harvests people to repair herself. She treats people as a source of parts.

CONCLUSION: Black Stone Heart is, above all, addictive and compulsively readable - it forced me to prolong my lunch as much as I dared because I couldn’t bear to stop reading it. If anything depended on me, I would forbid Fletcher to work on anything but The Obsidian Path series. I need the sequel.

It’s clear I’m biased. For the sake of objectivity, I have to say it probably won’t appeal to readers tired of over-the-topness, violence, and a certain level of predictability (those two final surprises weren’t really exactly shocking). I loved it too much to care, though, and felt fully immersed in the narrative.



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