Imagine what would happen if Jane Austen and Anne McCaffrey collaborated on a book: Pride and Prejudice meets The Dragonriders of Pern? If your mind is boggling in a good way by the very thought, then you’re in luck because, while that particular collaboration isn’t going to happen, instead we have Heartstone by Elle Katharine White, which brings the social settings and restrictions of Georgian British society into a different world in which gryphons, direwolves, banshees, lamias and lindworms threaten human society and dragons, wyverns and warriors fight to defend humanity.
If you’re thinking this could be as artificial and unsatisfying (well, I found it artificial and unsatisfying, though of course your mileage may vary) as the 2009 mashup Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith, give Heartstone a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, because this is more than a mere addition of epic fantasy elements to the plot and characters of Pride and Prejudice; it’s a rethinking of the whole world of Jane Austen, with affection for her characters and their situations.
Aliza Bentaine, Heartstone’s protagonist, has already lost one sister to the invasion of gryphons and is hoping the Riders Lord Merybourne has hired to hunt down the gryphons will render her home safe again. She’s less than pleased to discover the serious personality defects of one of those riders, the haughty but handsome Alistair Daired, and almost immediately the two of them clash, strong willed and sharp-witted as they both are. But there’s more going on than the mating game, and Aliza and Alistair find themselves dragged into a mystery involving something much more dangerous even than gryphons, something that could destroy the foundations of the kingdom itself, perhaps even the world.
For those doing the 2017 Reading Challenge, Heartstone counts double: as a debut novel and a fantasy novel. Just saying.