Book Review: Heart of Granite by James Barclay

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Synopsis: The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.

Max Halloran has no idea. He’s living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He’s an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family’s every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything . . .

. . . right up until he hears something he shouldn’t have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he’s risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.

One man, one brief conversation . . . a whole world of trouble . . 

Author: James Barclay

Title: Heart of Granite

Publisher: Gollancz

Date: 2016

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Heart of Granite is one of those books I have had sitting on my Netgalley shelf for a while and only just got around to reading it.

It’s also one of those books where I have no idea what took me so long, because I loved it!

Heart of Granite left me counting down until lunchtime so I could get back to it. It made me wish my journey was a couple of stops longer just so I could indulge for another chapter or so.

I have to admit, I struggled to get my head around the world for the entire book. Everything had gone pear-shaped and everyone was at war with another, that much I understood.

But when it came to the drakes, the behemoth, the basilisk etc, I had trouble being able to picture them properly. I wasn’t certain whether they were technology, nature or aliens.

The drakes made me think of dragons, with the pilots’ connection to them having some resemblance to the dragon rider books I have read. But I don’t know if that is me layering on a connection I am familiar with, or what was actually going on. I don’t think I could properly describe them: the references to pouches kept making me picture them as kangaroos with wings, which I highly doubt is their actual look.

“Holy Mother, you’ve read a book?” said Moeller. “I’m almost impressed, Halloran.”

I found, however, that I didn’t care. It was the characters and their relationships that made this book for me and made everything else irrelevant.

Max is a cocky sod, full of himself. He’s at the top of his game, and he knows it. Somehow, though, you don’t care. The characters themselves reference the fact that Max is a selfish twat who still makes you care about him. People loved and hated Max in equal measure and it made him a fantastic protagonist. But you also see his vulnerable side: he realises he is in love and he is afraid when he knows he’s in real danger. He is well-rounded and I loved him.

There are a number of characters who take the driving seat as the main character throughout various points in the book: Moeller is the flight commander, in charge of the squadrons which ultimately puts him in the middle of a conflict of interest: protect his pilots or listen to his superiors.

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Valera is the squad’s leader. She knows how to control her team, even Max, and you just know there is something solid about her character. She won’t let anyone tear her squad apart without fighting tooth and nail to expose them.

Solomon is the bad guy, so to speak. More concerned with advancing her own career and worrying about PR, she will do anything to stop the truth from leaking out.

All of the characters were well-defined and three-dimensional. Their relationships were realistic. I particularly loved that Max wasn’t a leader; it might have made his character cliché.

Despite some of the confusion, I thoroughly enjoyed this book from beginning to end.

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