Hearts of Oak

Hearts of Oak

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 ...

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Title:Hearts of Oak
Author:Eddie Robson
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Hearts of Oak Reviews

  • Lisa Wolf

    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 k

    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!

  • Tammy

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    An inventive and quirky tale,

    was a surprise from start to finish.

    Well, this was an odd story! And I mean that in a good way. Whatever you think

    is about, be ready to adjust your perceptions, because it started one way, and at about the halfway point, it became something quite different. This is go

    I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

    An inventive and quirky tale,

    was a surprise from start to finish.

    Well, this was an odd story! And I mean that in a good way. Whatever you think

    is about, be ready to adjust your perceptions, because it started one way, and at about the halfway point, it became something quite different. This is going to be a hard review to write, simply because there's a lot about the story that I can’t tell you. Eddie Robson is a unique writer and I’m eager to read more of his work!

    The story focuses on an architect named Iona who has lived in the city for many years, helping it grow by designing new buildings, and tearing down old ones and building bigger and better buildings in their place. The citizens who live there are dedicated to this bustling industry and the city thrives and grows, expanding both outward and upward. Raw materials are taken from the surrounding forests, for this city is made entirely of wood. Citizens who die are taken to a furnace called Point of Return, where their cremated remains will create energy for the city to keep going.

    Ruling over the city is the King, who is guided by his trusty advisor, a talking cat named Clarence. The King is more of a figurehead than anything else, since Clarence seems to make all his decisions for him.

    Life is predictable and ordinary, until one day Iona is approached by a young woman named Alyssa, who wants Iona to teach her about construction. Iona senses something odd about Alyssa, but it isn’t until a construction site that they visited burns down that Iona begins to suspect that Alyssa might be hiding something from her. And why are Iona’s “dream-words” popping into her head more and more these days? Words like

    and

    that have no meaning here in the city, but words that Iona recognizes from her dreams and associates with Alyssa?

    When Iona goes poking around for answers and discovers a curious set of instructions, she finds her world and everything she’s believed in turned upside down. Alyssa confirms it: there is something evil living in the city, and she needs Ioan’s help to stop it.

    And that’s all I can say about the story, because it’s best to be surprised when you read it, just like I was. Like much of Tor.com fiction,

    is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Robson has crafted a unique world that feels slightly

    , but you don’t realize just how off it is until some of its mysteries are revealed. There were a couple of surprise, jaw-dropping moments that I wasn't expecting. For example, the story seems firmly grounded in the fantasy genre, yet at some point it switches gears and dives straight into science fiction. Robson gives his readers clues about this switch, but it still caught me off guard.

    I did love this quirky world made of wood, but I had so many questions as I was reading. Why is the city constantly under construction? Doesn’t anyone do anything else? Why is everything so contained, with no mention of the outside world? What purpose does the King serve, since he never seems to make any of his own decisions? Don’t worry, all those answers and more will eventually be answered.

    My only complaint about the story was that it seemed a bit too long. There’s a moment near the end that

    like a good place to stop, but the author kept going, and for me, the story started to feel a little tedious at that point. But I have to say Robson redeemed himself in those final pages. I absolutely loved the way he ended his story, although it might not be the ending that readers

    , it was the ending these characters needed.

  • unknown

    What a quirky and surprising little book. Delightfully off-kilter. Raced through it in a day. Just... don't read the genre classifications on the back cover of the ARC, which are a massive spoiler.

  • Arkadeb

    Well that weird. And different.

  • Jordan

    What a completely unexpected and quirky little story. Really had a fun time with this one.

    Find this review at

    !

    Ordinarily I would write a full review this book, but while reading Hearts of Oak I soon realized that this is one of those books that relies so heavily on the unknown that I actually want to keep this fairly brief so that I don't give much of anything away. (Also, I'd just like to say that I was mostly interested in this premise, but when I got to the line of

    What a completely unexpected and quirky little story. Really had a fun time with this one.

    Find this review at

    !

    Ordinarily I would write a full review this book, but while reading Hearts of Oak I soon realized that this is one of those books that relies so heavily on the unknown that I actually want to keep this fairly brief so that I don't give much of anything away. (Also, I'd just like to say that I was mostly interested in this premise, but when I got to the line of "And the cat is most certainly involved!" in the synopsis, I was completely sold--and it was totally worth it.)

    : Hearts of Oak is full of surprises and I swear I felt like I was getting whiplash at times from how much this book kept pulling out new twists and ideas that kept me so engaged. I was constantly curious because you can sort of tell that certain things are off, but it's hard at times to pinpoint exactly what until it's about to happen or it actually happens and then things start to unravel in such a fascinating way. I also really loved how subtle the themes were in this book--they're important and strong, but they aren't thrown into your face in an overwhelming way, which I really appreciated.

    I also really loved how quirky this book was. It's not over-the-top strange or anything like that, but there are so many subtly odd things that really made this book stand out and also made me love the style of writing. The setting itself is one of the weirdly quirky things that was of particular interest to me and I found it fascinating how this society seemed to work.

    : I wouldn't really say that there's anything I really disliked about this book, but there were some areas that could have used some improvement. The characters were mostly interesting and well-developed, but I feel like there could have been a bit more to them and their personalities--including secondary characters--to bring them to life and make me care about them just a little bit more.

    Overall, I've given Hearts of Oak four stars! I apologize for this review being so vague, but I really don't want to give a single thing away. I absolutely recommend this if you're looking for something fresh and quirky with a plot that will continuously keep you on your toes!

  • Karissa

    Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book that I got as an eGalley through NetGalley to review.

    Story (4/5): This was a very unique book with lots of twists and turns. It' s pretty fast read and an intriguing one. I enjoyed it because it was so different from other books I have read. It reminded me a bit of a Dr. Who episode and is hard to talk about without spoiling the story. Suffice to say the story is the strong point of this book.

    Characters (3/5): The characters are okay. We switch betw

    Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book that I got as an eGalley through NetGalley to review.

    Story (4/5): This was a very unique book with lots of twists and turns. It' s pretty fast read and an intriguing one. I enjoyed it because it was so different from other books I have read. It reminded me a bit of a Dr. Who episode and is hard to talk about without spoiling the story. Suffice to say the story is the strong point of this book.

    Characters (3/5): The characters are okay. We switch between The King and Iona (a master architect). Neither is very personable but are more devices to move the story forward. The side characters have very little depth. I felt like the characters were the weakest aspect of this story.

    Setting (4/5): Set in a mysterious walled city that keeps growing and growing as more and more buildings are constructed, I enjoyed this mysterious setting. The twists and turns revealed as the book continues reveal more and more about the setting. Again, this is a great aspect to the story.

    Writing Style (4/5): The writing style came across as pretty stark and simplistic to me but it works well for the story. The POV changes also worked well in this story.

    Summary (4/5): Overall this was a fun little read, that was quirky and different with lots of surprising little twists. It’s a pretty quick read and I enjoyed it for its uniqueness.

  • Shan

    What a strange, strange story.

    I can't say much without spoiling it. It's one of those books where you don't know what's going on, and you gradually piece it together, so to summarize the plot really would ruin the reading experience.

    The style reminded me of Gulliver's Travels. The characters are odd and hard to get an emotional grip on, for reasons that become clear as you go on. So what you're left with mostly is the story and the setting, and the questions. Where are they, why are they consta

    What a strange, strange story.

    I can't say much without spoiling it. It's one of those books where you don't know what's going on, and you gradually piece it together, so to summarize the plot really would ruin the reading experience.

    The style reminded me of Gulliver's Travels. The characters are odd and hard to get an emotional grip on, for reasons that become clear as you go on. So what you're left with mostly is the story and the setting, and the questions. Where are they, why are they constantly building and rebuilding the city, why is everything made of wood, what's the point of having a king, why does Iona vaguely know the word for felt but doesn't remember ever seeing it before? What are the figures on the other side of the window in the forest? And that talking cat ...

  • Alexander Tas

    Read this review and other Sci Fi/Fantasy book reviews at

    When I read the premise of Hearts of Oak, by Eddie Robson, I got excited. Growing buildings within an expanding city? Sign me up. The main character is an architect trying to understand the underpinnings of her world after being awoken from a stupor that required her to continuously expand the kingdom? Heck yeah, this is right up my alley. On top of that, just throw in a talking cat, who is the best friend and advisor to

    Read this review and other Sci Fi/Fantasy book reviews at

    When I read the premise of Hearts of Oak, by Eddie Robson, I got excited. Growing buildings within an expanding city? Sign me up. The main character is an architect trying to understand the underpinnings of her world after being awoken from a stupor that required her to continuously expand the kingdom? Heck yeah, this is right up my alley. On top of that, just throw in a talking cat, who is the best friend and advisor to the king of this land? Let me get a blanket and curl up on the couch. Unfortunately, this little novella did not really live up to the hype, and maybe that is my fault in some respects. All in all Hearts of Oak is a short novel that is full of twists and turns but lacks any real character and heart.

    The book starts off interesting enough as Iona, the main protagonist, is reviewing plans for several of the buildings in her city, noting the absurdity of the continuous expansion of buildings for what seems to be no reason. Her colleague has recently died in a building collapse, and something weird happens at his funeral. Another man runs and jumps onto the casket as it is carted into a furnace for cremation. While unsettling, it is not until she investigates the collapsed building, does Iona start to feel like something is off. Meanwhile, the King debates with his advisor, the aforementioned talking cat, about approving more and more construction, confused as to why he should not be concerned with the people within his city. o

    I’ll just pull this splinter out right away, I did not like this book. The beginning felt charming at first but quickly lurched into tedium. Iona was unconvincing as a character, let alone an architect. She often griped about her job, and the sheer audacity of the King to request larger and larger buildings without accounting for the needed strength to ensure their long term viability. Character moments involved a lot of telling, leading to Iona feeling like what someone thought an architect should act like. There was no real connection to the city or the world she had a part in building, the descriptives were minimal, and there was no real enchantment with particular buildings or the city as a whole. Her sole trait of “being an architect” felt superficial and became completely irrelevant as the book progressed. One could say, “well the twists make it irrelevant”, and to them I say hooey. The plot did not connect me with Iona, nor did it set her apart from the other characters.

    Speaking of the other characters, they barely felt integral to the plot. The King, the book’s other point of view, just spends his time listening to his cat and sitting around for most of the book. He barely adds any real context beyond “this is why the city must expand.” It could have been interesting if the humor or satire felt more direct, but most of the time it just felt like a red herring. As with most of the characters, the King felt like an undeveloped concept tossed into the book to make the world feel interesting, but ended up adding no real character or drama. The other characters I could barely remember, and didn’t have any particular traits beyond “they existed.”

    I hear you say, “Alex, but if everything is in service to the plot, that must at least be enjoyable right?” Well, readers, this is where it gets a little messy. I will say there were certainly interesting twists and turns throughout the book that made the plot somewhat exciting. However, there was no weight to the discoveries. I did not get any sensation from the fast-paced unraveling of the mysteries. I do not want to get into specifics to avoid spoilers, but if things feel off as you read the book, it’s because things are off. As much as I wanted to enjoy these revelations, they felt hamstrung by their spontaneity. Each successive reveal felt like a jack-in-the-box, with Iona furiously cranking until the clown pops out, and she can move onto the next one. It just had no real build-up, and the absurdity of each reveal quickly lost its luster after the second or third twist.

    In the end, Hearts of Oak was not bad, it just did not resonate with me in any way. The interesting bits of the premise were window dressing with no real impact on the story. The characters were a vehicle to move the plot along, offering no substantive opinions of their own, and having zero on-screen development. The climax left much to be desired, as whatever cathartic character moment Robson was going for fell flat. There were some cool ideas through the book, but there was no exploration of them. I can’t even really recommend it as a fast-paced low-stakes palate cleanser, as it just left a bland but coating taste in my mouth.

    Rating: Hearts of Oak - 5.0/10

    -Alex

  • Nikki

    ; received a copy for review via Netgalley

    Hearts of Oak is a bit difficult to describe without giving things away. Iona is the main character, an architect in a mysterious city enclosed in a dome. She’s never really questioned the way things are, even though she has odd dreams and memories of things that no longer exist in the city. Materials that don’t exist, like concrete and felt. And yet odd things are happening: a colleague has died and a man appears at his fun

    ; received a copy for review via Netgalley

    Hearts of Oak is a bit difficult to describe without giving things away. Iona is the main character, an architect in a mysterious city enclosed in a dome. She’s never really questioned the way things are, even though she has odd dreams and memories of things that no longer exist in the city. Materials that don’t exist, like concrete and felt. And yet odd things are happening: a colleague has died and a man appears at his funeral and leaps into the furnace with him; a woman she’s never met before asks her to tutor her in how the building work is done, and she seems to have had the dreams too, to know words she shouldn’t know.

    There were moments that should have been really emotive — for instance, discovering you’re surrounded by automatons which don’t even look that human, but somehow you never noticed. That should surely have been freaky and weird and you should have felt for the character, but it was just kind of flat. Or the ending: the reader should have felt sorry, glad, horrified… something. But it totally didn’t work for me.

    It’s an interesting concept, but it left some questions in my mind and just… didn’t engage me much on an emotional level.

  • K.J. Charles

    An odd book. It starts as a kind of weird fantasy fable (an implausible city, a nameless king advised by a a talking cat, a dreamlike world where the past is unclear and the physics implausible) and then takes a left turn into SF. A nifty idea, but tbh it's mostly ideas: I didn't really feel for/with any of the characters as people, so I was looking at their predicament from the outside rather than emotionally engaged with what had happened to them, and there's no sense of the psychological impa

    An odd book. It starts as a kind of weird fantasy fable (an implausible city, a nameless king advised by a a talking cat, a dreamlike world where the past is unclear and the physics implausible) and then takes a left turn into SF. A nifty idea, but tbh it's mostly ideas: I didn't really feel for/with any of the characters as people, so I was looking at their predicament from the outside rather than emotionally engaged with what had happened to them, and there's no sense of the psychological impact, or their hopes/needs for the future. Basically, it never quite sheds the fable-like feeling even when we're in completely different circumstances. Well written, and I read all the way to the end, which is a lot given that I've barely read anything in a fortnight, but doesn't linger in the mind.

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