I had gotten a little backed up on reading my latest purchases of dragon books, and I wondered whether Charlie Fletcher's screenwriting background would translate well to prose, but then I started in on Stoneheart and completely forgot to fuss. It is a VERY good book--in my opinion, Fletcher succeeds in doing what China Mieville wanted to do but didn't quite pull off with Un Lun Dun, which surely got a lot more attention than this book. That is, Fletcher turns London into a quiet fantasy nightmare, an alternate reality, for a couple of kids, George and Edie. (Neil Gaiman would be proud!)
The previous reviewer gives you a plot summary, so I won't go into that, but I will point out that Fletcher has a clean, graceful written voice, and he adds depth to his writing with well-placed metaphors, many of which are refreshingly new. Here is a snatch of description about a statue of the Minotaur: "The shoulders hunched massively below a bull's head topped by aggressively pointing horns; and so well had the sculptor shaped it, that the sound of enraged snorting seemed to lurk about it, even though it never--to the normal eye--moved or breathed at all."
Of course, one of the eerie things about this book is that to the normal eye, the statues of London are NOT coming to life and menacing (or helping) two children. The normal eye doesn't see that the Raven flying overhead isn't flying at a normal speed; instead, it is "flapping unnaturally slowly, lazily defying all laws of gravity and several of the general advisory guidelines of nature as it did so."
When the book begins, George is self-pitying and Edie is cold-hearted; their characters evolve during the course of their adventures, as if Fletcher were undoing a work of dull origami and folding it into a better shape. The other standout character is the Gunner, a statue of a World War I soldier who helps George and Edie survive. Clocker was probably my favorite of the odd, invented characters hanging about the periphery of this tale, but there were others. In general, Fletcher has turned a collection of the actual statuary around London into an astonishing assortment of personalities and monsters.
There are so many nice--and creepy--little touches here, like what the evil Walker does to passing pedestrians as he searches for George, and the Raven's penchant for making a stylish entrance, and the fact that many characters are neither one thing nor the other, but a mix of good and evil, reliability and personal agendas. I also like how Edie's magic isn't an easy or simplistically happy power for her to carry.
Fletcher doesn't settle for predictable answers in his plot, which rides a growing wave of suspense clear up to the last few pages. Then he leaves you wanting more in just the right way--not because he has to sell another book, but because you truly want to see Edie and George take their suddenly bizarre lives to the next level.
I would recommend this book for older children and teens who were comfortable with the level of intensity and darkness in the later Harry Potter books. A very satisfying read!