C.E. Murphybegins Heart of Stone, the first of the Negotiator books, with our main character “Grit” being shadowed by a Gargoyle as she runs through Central Park. The Gargoyle, Alban, is a member of the few Old Races that are hidden in plain sight from the rest of humanity. His tragic history and how it compels him and leads him to eventually interact with Grit is the meat of the tale.
Murphy creates a plausible background and history for this story, but her main character is cookie-cutter urban fantasy: She’s smart, she’s athletic, and she’s a maverick who fights against injustice… If you read urban fantasy, then you know where this is going.
Murphy’s supporting characters are better, though. From Alban the Gargoyle to the quirky bookstore clerk who happens to know a whole bunch about the Old Races, Murphy gives them just enough detail and individuality that they make the story work. Some of the bad guys, for example, are complex and deep enough that you start to wonder if you wouldn’t be the same if you had walked in their shoes. Thinking about that was really fun for me.
So, to read or not to read… Well, if you like urban fantasy, Heart of Stone is a worthwhile fix while you wait for the next Kim Harrison or Patricia Briggs novel. The writing is good and there is enough interesting, creative world-building that you won’t feel like you wasted your time. But don’t let this book cause you to pass up something better.