ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Black Stone Heart by Michael R. Fletcher
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Obsidian Path (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy
Pages: 487 pages
Published: 1st April 2020 by Michael R. Fletcher
Insanely brilliant. Fletcher did it again. Black Stone Heart is one of his best works so far, and Fletcher has finally crafted something as good as his Manifest Delusion series with this one.
I’m starting to feel that Fletcher is becoming the Sanderson of grimdark fantasy. No, none of their works are remotely similar to one another, what do I mean by this statement then? Fletcher keeps pouring out new series without completing them first! I should be annoyed by this fact, but I can’t possibly complain when all of them have been so good in their own way. Black Stone Heart is the first book The Obsidian Path series, and as expected, it’s another incredible grimdark fantasy. Also, if you can, do get the physical edition of this book; there are interior artworks by Stas Borodin, I’ve seen one, and it was gorgeous.
Black Stone Heart follows the journey of Khraen. Khraen wakes up alone and lost; his stone heart has been shattered and littered across the world. Every time he acquires a fragment of his heart, he gains a part of his memory back. Realizing this, Khraen walks the obsidian path to restore his memory. Excluding The Millenial Manifesto, I’ve read all of Fletcher’s work, and although it will sound unbelievable, I truly believe that Black Stone Heart is Fletcher’s most compulsively readable book so far. It’s such an imaginative grimdark fantasy that involves a lot of resonating discussions about memories, identities, xenophobia, consequences, choices, and the nature of evil.
“Every day we do the things we think we have to do. So rarely do we stop to question our choices. We don’t even see deciding that we ‘have to do something’ is itself a choice. We blunder through life, writing our failures and excuses as we go, defending every choice with justifications made up after the fact. The truth is, we never really consider the consequences.”
Fletcher has given Khraen such a unique and distinctive voice that made his first-person perspective narration so bloody compelling to read. Mysteries, dark humor, destruction, and moral dilemma filled the pages of this book; I can’t get enough of them. At the beginning of the novel, Khraen was pretty much an empty vessel, but a few people he met in his quest to unlock his past ended up changing him for the better. At least, that’s what he thinks. There are complications in attaining more of his former self, with each fragment gained Khraen recognizes that he may not be as good as his present self. The moral dilemma that Khraen faced felt so genuine; he can’t resist getting more of his fragments back, he needs to know, but knowing more could end up changing him back to his former self. Plus, there’s another possibility, it may not be the revelations of his past that changes him, it could be the cruel surroundings and racism he constantly met on his journey. After all, it’s utterly difficult to continue your intention of being kind-hearted when your environment never stops treating you with hatred. Will he ends up reverting back to his former self? Will he continue to do good despite everyone being hateful and judgmental towards the color of his skin? Read and find out for yourself!
“Hating all wizards for the actions of one or two is madness. If a woman breaks your heart, do you hate all women?”
Similar to Fletcher’s Manifest Delusion and City of Sacrifice series, Black Stone Heart contained world-building that, somehow, felt refreshing to read, especially in grimdark fantasy. I’m a bit conflicted on how much I should talk about here, the fantasy elements in the world-building I encountered—like magic, wizards, necromancer, and many more I won’t mention—were surprises to me that I didn’t know about upon reading and they made me amazed by the scope of the story. In order to make sure you retain that wow experience on your reads, I’m gonna close this section by saying the world-building—especially the history of the world—was incredibly bleak and magnificent.
“The past, I decided, was like that. Even the most cherished moments faded, became memories of memories, as we focused on the parts we liked, and forgot the rest. But where individual moments lacked clarity, knowledge was something different.
Honestly speaking, I haven’t read any grimdark fantasy for five months, I even thought that I was tired of the genre after finding myself disappointed with The Chronicles of the Black Company series by Glen Cook. As it turns out, I’ve just been reading something that’s not working for me. I can always count on Joe Abercrombie, Steven Erikson, and Michael Fletcher to make me love reading the genre again. Black Stone Heart encapsulates why I love reading grimdark fantasy; it’s brutal, it’s merciless, it’s darkly humorous, it’s thought-provoking, and it’s brilliant. Before reading this novel, I kept on wishing that Fletcher would write the final book in Manifest Delusions first. But now, I don’t even mind if Fletcher suddenly stopped writing his other series and decided to focus on finishing this first. My curiosity to find out what happened next is on a ridiculously high level, and the overall quality of the book—in a different way—is at least as good as Beyond Redemption. Black Stone Heart feels like the beginning of a series that will stick with you long after you’re done reading it. I absolutely recommend this book to every grimdark fantasy readers.
“There are gods and demons.
There are heavens and hells.
But there is no fate,
there is no force of destiny.
Only you can decide who you are.
Your actions will define you.”
Official release date: 1st April 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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