Fletcher has an intriguing premise at the heart of his YA debut, the first in a planned trilogy, but the execution is flat. Twelve-year-old George Chapman is living a life that feels "pale and gray and washed out," missing his father and struggling to fit in. On a class outing to a museum, he is blamed for something he didn't do; in anger, he breaks a carved dragon's head protruding from a wall. Moments later, a stone pterodactyl on another wall comes alive and chases George through the streets of London. A man named Gunner comes to his rescue; he turns out to be a "spit," a statue made in the image of a living person and brought to life imbued with a bit of that person's spirit. Taints, conversely-like the gargoyles and dragons that suddenly pose such a threat to George-are dangerous precisely because they have nothing human in them. Stone carvings spring to life everywhere, furious with George for his act of destruction; a riddle contest with a nasty Sphinx reveals that George needs to find something called the Stone Heart to save his life and repair what he has broken. His quest takes him to an alternate, unseen London (one of many "un-Londons"), and eventually to a Minotaur's maze in the heart of the city. There is an ironic lifelessness to Fletcher's tale, particularly his protagonist who doesn't ring true; George is a bit more likeable at the finale, as he prepares to fight the murderous Walker in the sequel, but it may be too late for readers. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Rachel Myers
Twelve-year-old George Chapman can never catch a break. He is picked on by his classmates and finds no real solace at home. During a class fieldtrip to the history museum, George is accused of creating a scene and sent to sit in the security guard's office until the end of the trip. As expected, George does not stay seated and wanders outside of the museum, contemplating his plight and his future. While wandering around outside, George leans for a moment against some of the images of medieval beasts and gargoyles that had been carved into the side of the museum years before, and he accidentally breaks off the head of a stone dragon. George is mildly embarrassed at his delinquency, until a pterodactyl releases itself from the side of the museum and begins to chase him. George has awoken another level of the city of London. He has caused the statues of London to come alive. Unfortunately, there is only one other person in the city who can actually see the terrorizing statues, a girl named Edie who some of the "good" statues have cautioned him not to trust. Together, George, Edie, and some of the benevolent statues lead themselves on a treasure hunt around London in an attempt to put the statues back to sleep. British turn of phrase and vocabulary may distract the reader from the true heart of the story. The author obviously enjoys using metaphors and similes, which also tend to get tedious by the middle of the story. Fantasy readers will enjoy the new ideas about an alternate universe that frequently seems identical to real life. Reviewer: Rachel Myers
VOYA - Eileen Kuhl
Fletcher offers a terrifying mixture of demons, living statues, adventure, time travel, and a puzzling riddle in this complicated work of science fiction and fantasy. While on a trip to the Natural History Museum in London, George defies his teacher and is punished. In his anger, he breaks off a small piece of a carved dragon. This callous act results in the waking of another wicked world in London. George is terrorized by a plethora of stone gargoyles and other carved figures. He discovers statues with opposing natures that inhabit the underside of the city-heartless and cruel taints and spits who retain some of the kindness and humanity of their sculptors. A World War One gunner spit befriends George and explains his predicament. He must find the mysterious Stoneheart of London, return the carving, and make amends within forty-eight hours. He meets Edie, who is familiar with this sinister world, and together they attempt to decipher the many clues to locate the Stoneheart while they are fleeing the malevolent taints. Unexpected twists keep the action moving, the deadline is pressing, and the suspense never stops. Readers will be biting their nails until the conclusion. In the end, much is explained, but some of the characters and clues remain unclear. The title is very much focused on the landmarks of London, but the setting is described well for the unfamiliar reader. Readers who enjoy fast-paced adventure with an overlay of the supernatural will devour this story. Teens who enjoy William Sleator novels and Neal Shusterman's Full Tilt (Simon & Schuster, 2003/VOYA October 2003) will find this book thrilling.
School Library Journal
Charlie Fletcher's sequel (2008) to Stoneheart (2007, both Hyperion) is another fast-paced saga of warring statues in an alternate London. George, 13, and his sidekick Edie, with the help of the statue, The Gunner, fight to establish peace among the warring statues and the humans. The evil Walker kidnaps The Gunner and imprisons him under the city, where he has buried the bodies of several girls and women from whom he has stolen heart stones. The Gunner must fight his way to the surface and return to his plinth before midnight or suffer death as a statue. Meanwhile, George must fight and win three "duels" or die. While all this is transpiring, Edie is captured by The Walker and is forced to "glint" or see the past for him. Actor Jim Dale does a fabulous job of narrating the story, giving it an immediacy that is arresting. He seamlessly slips between characters' voices, giving each one a unique persona. Suspenseful music opens and closes the story, adding a nice touch to an extremely well-done performance. Listeners will be able to more fully understand the action taking place in this volume after reading/listening to the first book. A fine purchase, especially for libraries that circulate the print version.-Kathy Miller, Baldwin Junior High School, Baldwin City, KS
This series opener has appealing motifs but is tedious and longer than necessary. Twelve-year-old George gets in trouble on a museum field trip, stalks outside and angrily swings at a small stone carving. Shockingly, the dragon's head comes off in his hand. From that moment on, stone creatures are after him. A stone pterodactyl slides off the building and gives chase; as George races madly away, three stone salamanders join the pursuit. A statue of a Gunner from the Great War steps in and blasts the creatures to bits, but the respite is temporary. George has upset a balance he doesn't understand. His quest to put things right is aided by the Gunner and also by Edie, a girl of George's age who channels the past. They move through London, fighting desperately and seeking explanations from sphinxes and statues. Fletcher's action sequences are disappointingly dry. More intriguing are his philosophies about stone and "makers" (builders), and the protagonists' family histories, but these are too sparse, leaving the whole unsatisfying. (Fantasy. 10-12)