I adore Pride & Prejudice, and love sequels and spin-offs of it as well. So this book is Pride & Prejudice–with dragons! As soon as I heard that, I had to read it, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Aliza Bentaine has a problem. Merybourne Manor is afflicted with gryphons, and they hired Riders to hunt down the beasts before they claim any more lives. But her first encounter with the handsome dragonrider Alastair Daired did not go well at all–in fact, he was quite rude. She only has to put up with him for a little while, surely. If it weren’t for his friend deciding to rent a nearby house, sweeping her family into an acquaintance with the Riders that will be full of battles of the heart as well as those for life or death.
Clearly this is a retelling that follows the basic plot of the original, but not very closely–the characters are all changed noticeably, what with the monsters that like to eat people all over the place. They have to be a bit tougher, and there’s a lot more danger, too. Monster attacks abound, but there’s still time for flirting and arguing and dancing. Some characters are a bit nicer than the original, others are a bit crueler–but they’re all recognizable, making similar sorts of decisions (good and bad) and acting in a way that is satisfyingly familiar without being formulaic.
The world-building is as well thought-out as the character development, with the system of the Riders explained, how ‘good’ monsters are divided from ‘bad,’ and the heartstones from the title, too. Woven around the framework of nobility, manors, obligation and patronage, it works without going into too much detail.
One of my favorite changes were the Rider’s partners–dragons for the Daired family, and lesser monsters for the others–they’re all thinking beings, and some share personality traits given to the character their Rider was based on. With all the monsters (allies and enemies) and the fighting, there’s also loss of life, but that’s part of life, and the ending is what you’d expect from a P&P retelling–no let downs of the fans, here.
A great read for fans of the classic, but also something I’d recommend for fantasy fans who find the original slow or boring. It’s quite lively!