Title: Hearts of Oak
Author: Eddie Robson
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
The buildings grow.
And the city expands.
And the people of the land are starting to behave abnormally.
Or perhaps they’ve always behaved that way, and it’s normality that’s at fault.
And the king of the land confers with his best friend, who happens to be his closest advisor, who also happens to be a talking cat. But that’s all perfectly natural and not at all weird.
And when chief architect Iona wakes from a long period of blindly accepting the status quo, she realizes there’s a mystery to be solved. A strange, somewhat bizarre mystery, to be sure, but no less dangerous for its improbability.
And the cat is almost certainly involved!
How does a book featuring a king with a talking cat turn into science fiction?
I’m not telling!
But I will say this: Hearts of Oak is all sorts of awesome, and was exactly the sort of punchy, engaging read I needed this week.
The setting is weird and perplexing. We’re in a city where everything seems to be made of wood, and the entire focus of the city is building. Architects are practically rock stars, and the only city functions that seem to matter are building and planning.
And then there’s the king (and his cat Clarence), who observe the growth of the city from their window in the king’s tower, reading daily reports and signing off on plans, but really not doing much of anything else.
Everything seems to change when chief architect Iona is approached by a woman asking to be tutored in architecture. Something about Alyssa seems off, and her presence starts to bring forward words and images that Iona associates with her odd, recurring dreams.
And I’m not going to say what happens next! There are plenty of cool twists, and I actually laughed out loud over certain developments — like, OH, so THAT’s where this is going!
Seriously, this book just needs to be read! It’s great fun, full of surprises and really amazing and inventive elements, and I just could not put it down. I can see returning to Hearts of Oak and reading it again from time to time — it’s that good!
And a final great thing — it’s worth taking a closer look at the cover! I love the detail!