Heart of Stone
by Christine Warren
(St. Martin's, 7.99, R)  ISBN 978-1-250-01265-4
***
A few years back (2007, actually), C. E. Murphy put out a book about gargoyles called Heart of Stone.  That book, aside from the fact that there was a gargoyle as a main character, had nothing in common with Heart of Stone by Christine Warren except its title.  For some of you, this will be a letdown.  One does not generally associate gargoyles with light-hearted fiction or heavy sexuality. Christine Warren clearly has another way of looking at it.

Alpha male and somewhat neurotic, helpless female alert. Neither are turn-ons for me, but our mismatched hero and heroine make for a good comedy duo.  He's a Guardian, a gargoyle whose time in this realm, so to speak, is limited by when he is needed to fight demons. His kind (there are seven total) are called here by handlers in a magic Guild-with-a-capital-G.  He--his name turns out to be Kees--hasn't been awakened in a milennia, and is a bit surprised to find himself in the lobby of a museum in front of a clearly untrained mage.

Ella Harrow is untrained because she's terrified of her own magic and determined to do her best to keep it bottled up and ignored. In astonishingly short order, a man who appeared from a grotesque convinces her that not only that a) he is a gargoyle Guardian with a Higher Purpose; but b) that she is supposed to be an important mage, though gauging by her strong if untrained magical abilities, she is a walking bomb instead; and lastly, c) they're  Playing the guilt card, he convinces her to meet the Guild, get involved with this demon problem, and help him save the world under the guise of keeping herself from being the danger to the world. <;p> I'll be up-front about the fact that I have refused to read Christine Warren since I tried to read She's No Faerie Princess. Thankfully, for readers everywhere, the editing, dialogue, and plot-weaving have improved.  The gargoyles angle is quirky and interesting in a vampire-and-werewolf-strewn genre, though the development of the peripheral characters stinks.  And, for fans of Warren or her vampire-writing doppelganger Katie MacAlister, no doubt this new novel will be entirely enticing and a good way to keep warm on a wintery night.  I am forced to keep it to three stars because I still personally find the writing somewhat lacking, and four is a pretty high rating for me, but given the improvement to technique and forward motion, I'm not docking it much either.

--Sarrah Knight


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