I was originally introduced to Khraen in Fletcher's short story collection, released last year (among his twelve thousand other releases as of late). Khraen had several stories scattered throughout the book, each picking up at a different point in Khraen's second life. Fletcher prefaced these stories with an explanation that it is all based on a role-playing game that he and his friends played back in the day. (Likely the 1990's, when everyone was whack-o for THAC0.) So when I picked up Black Stone Heart, I thought I had a leg up on what I was in for.
Boy, was I wrong.
Fletch has introduced a dark, massive, and intriguing world that spans millennia. It toys with necromancy, human sacrifice, world-domination, and soul-cannibalism.
But at the stone-cold, black heart of it all, lies the question: what is evil? How is it defined? How can its relativity be judged from one man to another?
What I found most interesting is watching the justification of Khraen's sliding scale of morality, as his "I'll never sink that low" to "well, I have to do that for the greater good" becomes a steeper and steeper decline. The horrifying and tricky part that Fletch pulls off is how he got me to nod my head in agreement with Khraen's actions along the way.
Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that out loud. But this is what Fletcher has excelled at throughout his writing career. He has a way of making the reader dig down into a part of us that we don't want to face, but we know exists, and brings feelings that we fear most into focus. How evil would we sink if backed into a corner? How far would be go to survive? To protect the ones we love?
But it's not all doom and gloom. It's a pretty kickass adventure, too. There's heists, and romance (of the Fletcher variety), and knife fights, and wizard magic, and artifacts, and demons, and all sorts of fun stuff.
So, read the book! It's good! And sets up some pretty badass things to come.
Review by Adam Weller
Black Stone Heart
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