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 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!

Hearts of Oak Details

TitleHearts of Oak
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 17th, 2020
PublisherTor.com
ISBN-139781250260536
Rating
GenreFantasy, Science Fiction, Fiction

Hearts of Oak Review

  • K.J. Charles
    January 1, 1970
    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 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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  • unknown
    January 1, 1970
    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.
  • Lisa Wolf
    January 1, 1970
    How does a book featuring a king with a talking cat turn into science fiction?Im 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. Were 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 theres the king 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!Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley. Full review at Bookshelf Fantasies.
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  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    Reviewed for The Bibliophibian; received a copy for review via NetgalleyHearts 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. Shes 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 dont exist, like concrete and felt. And yet odd things are happening: a colleague has died and a man appears at his Reviewed for The Bibliophibian; received a copy for review via NetgalleyHearts 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.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    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.The nitty-gritty: An inventive and quirky tale, Hearts of Oak was a surprise from start to finish.Well, this was an odd story! And I mean that in a good way. Whatever you think Hearts of Oak 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 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.The nitty-gritty: An inventive and quirky tale, Hearts of Oak was a surprise from start to finish.Well, this was an odd story! And I mean that in a good way. Whatever you think Hearts of Oak 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 felt and coin 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, Hearts of Oak is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Robson has crafted a unique world that feels slightly off , 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 felt 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 want , it was the ending these characters needed.Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy
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  • Arkadeb
    January 1, 1970
    Well that weird. And different.
  • Alexander Tas
    January 1, 1970
    Read this review and other Sci Fi/Fantasy book reviews at The Quill To LiveWhen 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 The Quill To LiveWhen 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. oI’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
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  • Karissa
    January 1, 1970
    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 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.
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  • Jordan
    January 1, 1970
    What a completely unexpected and quirky little story. Really had a fun time with this one. Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!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 Forever Lost in Literature!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.)What I liked: 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.What I didn't like: 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!
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  • Aliki Ekaterini Chapple
    January 1, 1970
    Theres a border where Fantasy and Science Fiction meet, and some of my favourite books are built across it; this one, restless, makes the journey in the course of its narrative. We begin with kings and talking animals in a city whose implausibility increases with every revelation. We end very differently, but getting there is too much fun to spoil - just come along for the ride and youll see! There’s a border where Fantasy and Science Fiction meet, and some of my favourite books are built across it; this one, restless, makes the journey in the course of its narrative. We begin with kings and talking animals in a city whose implausibility increases with every revelation. We end very differently, but getting there is too much fun to spoil - just come along for the ride and you’ll see!
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  • Marlene
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published at Reading RealityTalking cats are generally an indicator that you are either reading a cozy mystery or an animal odyssey like Watership Down or Redwall.Or, that something is really, really wrong. Because cats arent supposed to speak in complete English sentences or whatever language you might speak. Any story where the kings wisest counselor and closest adviser is a talking cat is either a fantasy of some sort or a story where things have gone really, really off-kilter at Originally published at Reading RealityTalking cats are generally an indicator that you are either reading a cozy mystery or an animal odyssey like Watership Down or Redwall.Or, that something is really, really wrong. Because cats aren’t supposed to speak in complete English sentences – or whatever language you might speak. Any story where the king’s wisest counselor and closest adviser is a talking cat is either a fantasy of some sort or a story where things have gone really, really off-kilter at the very least.With that talking cat at the center of it all. Having played more than one game where a villain took the form of a talking cat, I was expecting the very, very wrong.The situation in Hearts of Oak was wronger than that. Also weirder. Much, much weirder.At first it merely seems as if the cat is manipulative – as they are – the king is a chucklehead and the elderly architect who is our point of view character is a bit too far past it to figure just what it is about the city that feels so -oddShe’s certainly aware that something feels “off” but can’t quite get her mind to wrap around exactly what – at least not until the cremation ceremony when a member of the audience leaps onto the casket just as its about to be engulfed by the flames.At that point, it’s pretty obvious that something is amiss, but just not what.At that point we are all, like the architect Iona, pretty much invested in the fantasy-like scenario of the ever-growing city, the slightly oblivious king and the dreamlike, slightly soporific quality of the place.And that’s the point where it all goes pear-shaped, and all of the perspectives, especially Iona’s and our own, get turned on their heads.When we – and Iona – discover that nothing about this world has ever been as it seemed.That’s the point where the oh-so-subtle wrong becomes very, very interesting. And Iona’s situation goes far more pear-shaped than she – and the reader – ever imagined.Escape Rating B: The story at its beginning has kind of a dreamlike quality. It feels obvious to the reader – at least to this reader – that things are not as they seem and that the cat is at the heart of it all. That particular reveal didn’t feel like all that big of a discovery.But the point where Iona’s perspective goes through its sudden and dramatic shift takes the story in a direction that absolutely was not expected – nor should it have been. I expected that Iona’s world was stranger than she imagined, but had no clue that it was stranger in the particular way that it is.There’s more than a bit of charm to this story and the way that its told, as well as a bit of pathos in Iona’s ultimate fate. At the same time, looking back on the story now that it’s over, it feels like there were a whole bunch of themes and plot points that were plucked from different branches of speculative fiction and melded into the whole of Hearts of Oak.In other words, there were plenty of moments where I felt like I’d read that part of the story before – or seen it on one or more SFF TV show. At the same time, the whole was, not so much greater than the sum of its parts as completely different from the sum of its parts. A feeling that makes no sense but still feels true.Hearts of Oak is a fun, quirky read that takes itself places that the reader never expects. It’s not really character driven, and when I think about it it doesn’t feel plot-driven either. If I had to describe it – and I kind of do – I’d have to say that it’s really twist-and-turn driven. Just about the time when you think you know where it’s going – or at least begin to recognize where it’s been – it takes a completely different twist and you have to re-evaluate the parts you’ve already read.If you like stories as puzzles, this one is fascinating. With a twist in the end that cuts like a knife.
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  • C.J. Bunce
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published in BORG magazine.Hearts of OakAn architect, a king, and a cat meet up in a tale at the edge of The Twilight ZoneReview by C.J. BunceRod Serling, eat your heart out. Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone writers could take some pointers from Eddie Robsons new novel, Hearts of Oak. Its a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy. And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly Originally published in BORG magazine.Hearts of Oak–An architect, a king, and a cat meet up in a tale at the edge of The Twilight ZoneReview by C.J. BunceRod Serling, eat your heart out. Black Mirror and The Twilight Zone writers could take some pointers from Eddie Robson′s new novel, Hearts of Oak. It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy. And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page. Borrowing its title from the popular, age-old song of the British Navy, here the cryptic “hearts of oak” says a lot about the rollercoaster ride for readers that lies ahead.Taking a cue from the stark, detached, and quirky science fiction mysteries of Adam Christopher’s robot detective in books like Killing is My Business (reviewed previously here at borg), readers, and the protagonists, never quite know what is real and who is real. What we do know is Iona Taylor has been an architect so long everyone knows her and respects her as the very best there is. But she is having a particularly bad week as her colleague has died in the collapse of a building. As she contemplates attending his funeral a new student inquires about private tutoring, and when the student leaves her hat behind the feeling of felt texture in the hat conjures something surreal for Iona–a strange feeling tugging at her, maybe even loosening some long forgotten memories. After a strange event at the funeral and the destruction of yet another building, Iona is called by the authorities not for her advice, but for questioning, becoming a target of the investigation. When the prospective student vanishes, Iona must play detective to clear herself, but she might not like what she finds.Eddie Robson, a writer of Doctor Who and other radio plays and non-fiction works about movies, is a good storyteller. His narrative reads like a fantasy fable of a king with a talking cat who advises him, in an enchanted city of expansive buildings and replenished resources centered around creating ever higher architecture so the king may relocate his rooms at the very top. The book evokes parts of great science fiction stories and films of the past without pulling too much from any of them. But fans of all these works will find some surprisingly good fun in Hearts of Oak: Planet of the Apes, Tron: Legacy, Humans, Alien, Snowpiercer, The Truman Show, Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint, a flip on Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and The Matrix, and a few episodes of your favorite sci-fi TV shows, especially The Twilight Zone.Read the entire review here at BORG.
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  • Hannah Bennett
    January 1, 1970
    Hearts of Oak starts with a king, an architect, a magically growing city, and a talking cat, and, somehow, it manages to keep these pieces at its (oak) heart, even as the story itself expands and changes. What starts as a tender, character focused fantasy about an ever-growing city shifts into a very different story mid-way through. The result is a beautifully clever genre-bending experience, with a story that is part whimsical fantasy and part provocative science fiction.The themes present Hearts of Oak starts with a king, an architect, a magically growing city, and a talking cat, and, somehow, it manages to keep these pieces at it’s (oak) heart, even as the story itself expands and changes. What starts as a tender, character focused fantasy about an ever-growing city shifts into a very different story mid-way through. The result is a beautifully clever genre-bending experience, with a story that is part whimsical fantasy and part provocative science fiction.The themes present in Hearts of Oak sit just below the surface of the story. This isn’t a SFF novella that spells out it’s themes, and I appreciated that change from other short fiction I’ve recently read. That being said, there’s commentary to be gleaned here regarding themes of identity, memory, sacrifice, and community. Most importantly, I think, though, is the overarching theme of what it looks like to have a society obsessed with constant improvement, continuous work, and expansion for expansion’s sake.This novella is complex, and the characters are so well defined for it being a shorter work. I found Iona (the architect) very relatable, and enjoyed her narrative perspective a lot.Because of its whimsy, intrigue, and genre-bending nature, I think Hearts of Oak is a great novella for both fans of the genre and for readers new to science fiction. This novella knocked my socks off, and it easily gets 5 stars from me. I can’t wait to see what else the author, Eddie Robson, writes in the future.Thanks to NetGalley and Tor.com Publishing for providing me an eArc of the book. Hearts of Oak comes out on March 17, 2020.Check out my book blog Back Shelf Books for more SFF reviews and posts!
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  • Benjamin Rathbone
    January 1, 1970
    Hearts of Oak starts out as a mystery, and it takes a while to figure out the nature of that mystery about a 100 pages in. Thats not when you get the solution, mind you. Thats just how long it takes to figure out the the flavor of the mystery. At the start, you have a city made entirely of wood, a senior architect responsible for designing most of the citys buildings, and a king who rules mostly by following the advice of his pet cat. The cat, named Clarence, talks. The city is constantly Hearts of Oak starts out as a mystery, and it takes a while to figure out the nature of that mystery — about a 100 pages in. That’s not when you get the solution, mind you. That’s just how long it takes to figure out the the flavor of the mystery. At the start, you have a city made entirely of wood, a senior architect responsible for designing most of the city’s buildings, and a king who rules mostly by following the advice of his pet cat. The cat, named Clarence, talks. The city is constantly expanding for some inexplicable reason. Going into the book, these details gave me the impression I was reading something like a book from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, but Hearts of Oak turned out to be a bit different. Once the curtains began to part, the story reminded me of a separate — but still decidedly English — property, and reading the author’s bio, it was obvious for what franchise this plot was originally crafted.
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  • Vega
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the first part enjoyed trying to puzzle things out, and then started trying to hit the brakes as the speed of plot went into overdrive even as my enjoyment ground to a halt. read the spoiler if you want my review of the ending in a mostly spoiler free form but heavy on opinion. (view spoiler)[the beginning really is great, I enjoyed it immensely, the mystery you think you are solving is also great and the plot revealed as well as the actual mystery is just as good. then the last part I loved the first part enjoyed trying to puzzle things out, and then started trying to hit the brakes as the speed of plot went into overdrive even as my enjoyment ground to a halt. read the spoiler if you want my review of the ending in a mostly spoiler free form but heavy on opinion. (view spoiler)[the beginning really is great, I enjoyed it immensely, the mystery you think you are solving is also great and the plot revealed as well as the actual mystery is just as good. then the last part like literally the immediately before the end last part just made me depressed. it wasn't that it was badly written or whatever which is an opinion and not a thing i would base my review of a book off of, but they not only got rid of what amounted to everything characters plot and mystery in one fell swoop then made just about everything unnecessary. even the loss of a certain someone didn't make me angry or confused so much as it simply did sad that his only end was an ignominious one. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Molly Zackary
    January 1, 1970
    This science fiction story unravels similar to a murder mystery and it is no less satisfying to read. Our main character, Iona, from who's perspective we're reading, embarks on figuring out a great mystery. At the onset, she doesn't yet know there is any mystery to unravel and that makes her unintentional sleuthing all the more interesting. As you read you'll get the sensation that you have solved the mystery only to have another turn cornered and a brand new layer revealed. It is as though you This science fiction story unravels similar to a murder mystery and it is no less satisfying to read. Our main character, Iona, from who's perspective we're reading, embarks on figuring out a great mystery. At the onset, she doesn't yet know there is any mystery to unravel and that makes her unintentional sleuthing all the more interesting. As you read you'll get the sensation that you have solved the mystery only to have another turn cornered and a brand new layer revealed. It is as though you begin the book underneath the microscope and each chapter zooms outward until you have a view of things far outside the universe. It kept me on my toes, wanting to know what I didn't know, all the way until the final paragraph. I would give this book a 4.5 if that were possible on this app.
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  • Nathan
    January 1, 1970
    A short read, which had some very unexpected twists and kept me engaged to the finish. I expected more humour in the tale - the land is ruled by the kind and his advisor cat after all, introduced in the first few pages. Their initial dialogue is fun and clever, but that tone really doesnt continue and gets tied up in a strange sort of murder mystery that moves away from all the promise the initial parts set out. In the end, I kind of feel the twists were a bit to ... severe, especially for such A short read, which had some very unexpected twists and kept me engaged to the finish. I expected more humour in the tale - the land is ruled by the kind and his advisor cat after all, introduced in the first few pages. Their initial dialogue is fun and clever, but that tone really doesn’t continue and gets tied up in a strange sort of murder mystery that moves away from all the promise the initial parts set out. In the end, I kind of feel the twists were a bit to ... severe, especially for such a short tale. I lost all suspension of disbelief partway through. I don’t think I’d recommend this one.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    Hmmm.... This is a bit different! It starts off as a mystery (ish) and then gets a little bit slow before picking up speed and becoming something surprising. Hard to say much without spoiling anything but I bought the book because I enjoyed Eddie Robson's work (radio series Welcome To Our Village... and numerous Doctor Who audio plays) and the experience of reading this book was a satisfying one.
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  • Jerold Farver
    January 1, 1970
    What starts a a seemingly allegorical tale, with talking cats and a reluctant king turns into a interstellar sf alien contact. It does this quite seamlessly and to good effect . Alien automatons have built a habitat for a human contact team that they have discovered on another planet and created human automatons to keep them occupied. The false humans are basically clockwork with mechanical programing (kind of cyberpunk) Things start going weird and then the aliens arrive.
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  • Colleen Jackson
    January 1, 1970
    Pretty disappointed in this book, especially after reading reviews about how funny it was. The only thing I found mildly amusing was the name of one character, and even that was probably just me. I was about 100 pages into this book when I decided it was finally picking up. But that didnt really last. The ideas in this book had so much potential! And I thought Iona could be a character I really loved. But her character - and the entire book - just was not developed enough. Pretty disappointed in this book, especially after reading reviews about how funny it was. The only thing I found mildly amusing was the name of one character, and even that was probably just me. I was about 100 pages into this book when I decided it was finally picking up. But that didn’t really last. The ideas in this book had so much potential! And I thought Iona could be a character I really loved. But her character - and the entire book - just was not developed enough.
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  • John Rennie
    January 1, 1970
    This was fun, but it felt to me like a young adult book. The plot felt a bit naive and lacked the subtlety I'd expect to find in an adult book. The world building is nice, but it's not terribly plausible and lacks depth. If you just want a bit of light weight entertainment then this book is fine, and it's short enough that it doesn't take long to read, but if you are hoping for anything deeper you will be disappointed.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Meh. This could probably make a good miniseries in the right hands, but I didn't particularly care for the ending. It was a very quick read. There wasn't a lot of depth to it, but it was interesting, I kept reading. The first half was more thrilling than the second half, and I think the world Robson built in the first half would be awesome to see fleshed out on the screen.
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  • Geoffrey Payne
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those strange books that seems like it doesnt know what it wants to be but oddly enough, it manages to make it work. The setting is really interesting and the plot development has enough surprises to keep you going. Since its a short read its definitely worth checking out. 4 out of 5 stars. This is one of those strange books that seems like it doesn’t know what it wants to be but oddly enough, it manages to make it work. The setting is really interesting and the plot development has enough surprises to keep you going. Since it’s a short read it’s definitely worth checking out. 4 out of 5 stars.
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  • Sontaranpr
    January 1, 1970
    Atop a tower lives a king. The king has a talking cat and together they watch over the city as it grows. The city gets ever larger and the king's tower gets taller. At the university teaches the architect. She's designed many of the buildings and drafts the texts books. One day her friend gets killed during a construction accident and during his funeral something weird happens ...
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  • Gpickle
    January 1, 1970
    Worth every minute. I can best impart this books personal gut punching impact and resulting 5 star review through its own words.But thats what a coincidence is, isnt it?Because your cat is evil, SteveGreat read, easy breezy, cover to cover, and with enough wonder and mystery to fill a good many more pages - but the thrift maximized the enjoyment and impact for me. Worth every minute. I can best impart this book’s personal gut punching impact and resulting 5 star review through its own words.“But that’s what a coincidence is, isn’t it?”“Because your cat is evil, Steve”Great read, easy breezy, cover to cover, and with enough wonder and mystery to fill a good many more pages - but the thrift maximized the enjoyment and impact for me.
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  • Leif
    January 1, 1970
    Spooky. Not spooky enough. Gauzy with imprecision, rather; a hint of tooth and blood lends the plot its requisite motor, but the setting promises more narrative compulsion than it ends up delivering. This is not to say that Robson has produced something bad - far from it, this is diversion for an hour or two enough, and joyful at that.
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    It started well and I was interested throughout, but overall this was disappointing. The writing is clear but neither atmospheric or deeply descriptive. Its almost funny and suspenseful, but never fully commits to either. Bummer. It started well and I was interested throughout, but overall this was disappointing. The writing is clear but neither atmospheric or deeply descriptive. It’s almost funny and suspenseful, but never fully commits to either. Bummer.
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    A short, odd book. A strange society starts feeling strange and then there is this wall where strange observers sit. Not very emotionally involving though.
  • Mary Bellamy
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed the first 80% of the book and was bored by the last 20%. Fortunately, the book was short.
  • Lee Schlesinger
    January 1, 1970
    This book starts in one place, takes several radical turns, and ends up at its darkest point, and it doesn't offer any fun along the way.
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