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Hearts of Oak

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  106 reviews
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
Paperback, 272 pages
Published March 17th 2020 by
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Average rating 3.56  · 
Rating details
 ·  503 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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K.J. Charles
Apr 03, 2020 added it
Shelves: sff
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 ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a most peculiar little book. It starts like a fairy tale (nameless king + talking cat), delves deep into the life of an architect whose reality is about to invert itself, and ends in what seems like a totally different book. Astute readers may well guess one of the plot twists, but probably not all of them. If Hearts of Oak is about anything, it might be a cautionary tale about accepting a nonsensical reality that feels normal only because we've stopped questioning it.

Cautiously recomme
Lisa Wolf
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian; 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
Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 go
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction, 2020
Well that weird. And different.
Alexander Tas
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Read this review and other Sci Fi/Fantasy book reviews at The Quill To Live

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
Matthew Galloway
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
I found myself wanting to say very little about this one because I think the twists are delicious and I’d hate to spoil them. What I will say, is that this made me think of Doctor Who often. You know how the Doctor always tells the bad guys that humans will surprise you? And, presumably, that means that when the Doctor isn’t there, humans are doing those wonderful, surprising things and trying to save themselves here and there? Well, to me, this is maybe an episode where the Doctor didn’t show u ...more
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
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
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Kris Sellgren
Sep 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, cats
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexander Pyles
Feb 06, 2021 rated it liked it
This was an interesting, Kafka-esque story that I feel like treads the line of being something similar to Le Guin's SciFi, but by the end, it comes just short of that.

There isn't really enough of fruition of thematic threads throughout this story and the main character's emotional conflict remains mostly muted and woefully understated for most of the novel as well.

I wanted more from this, but it serves as a fun quirky read.
Aliki Ekaterini  Chapple
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!
Jun 28, 2020 rated it liked it
The classic sci-fi Bradburyesque influences are there (I got Cordwainer Smith vibes too, if just because of the cat), and I love it, and I love how damn efficient the prose is without being dull or unsuited to the tale. But at the end I just have to wonder... what’s the point? It’s a very cool story with a lot of very cool concepts, but in the end, what did it Say?

Fun fact: Eddie Robson has a writing credit on a single Amazing World of Gumball episode, “The Pact,” which is, imho, the more forget
Jennifer A. Johnson
Jan 12, 2021 rated it liked it
*sets book down*
*opens mouth to speak*
*looks at title*
*closes mouth*

This is such an odd book. It was mostly enjoyable, definitely weird, and the second half is so unlike the first that it's disorienting. Not....bad, exactly.

But when a book ends and you have just as many questions, because the explanations given actually make less sense than the initial confusion you felt when you didn't know anything, you have to wonder if that was deliberate or if something was missing in the writing.

I'm not su
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-read
It was a small story that unraveled into a big story. Very creative, gave me Neil Gaiman vibes.
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was ok
Kinda cute. Kinda clumsy. Probably forgetable. Mostly a grab bag of interesting but unexplored ideas. There's a chapter in the middle that is exposition heavy which spells everything out, and it's a lot less interesting after that. ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Originally published at Reading Reality

Talking 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
C.J. Bunce
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 Zone

Review by C.J. Bunce

Rod 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 firml
Feb 03, 2021 rated it it was ok
There's plenty to like in this story, but the flaws are significant. The first part of the story is engaging - there's a strange little universe where things are familiar but somehow off. Sadly, as the explanations come forth, the story goes downhill with increasing speed.

Most notable to me is the fact that it reads like a half-developed script. In many instances the solutions to problems are presented as solved rather than the characters going through the process of solving them. That includes
Feb 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Did I stay in bed when I actually intended to get up at o'dark thirty just to finish this novel? Yes.

Am I asking myself what I just read? Also yes.

There's no way to write about this book without spoiling the entire thing, so...spoilers ahead. Many of them.

(view spoiler)
Hannah Bennett
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 
Brian Andrews
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it
A difficult book to rate. 4 stars and I'm telling my friends to read it. 5 stars and I'm stopping strangers on the street (before 2020 that is) and telling them to read it. So 3 stars feels about right - I won't be recommending it to anyone, but if the synopsis sounds interesting to a potential reader, then jump on in.

Other reviewers have done an excellent job writing brief reviews of this (thankfully*) short book. It begins with a bit of a mystery / weirdness. Then it takes a turn where you're
May 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars. Hearts of Oak was one of my most anticipated novels of 2020 and I'm very bummed out that I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped. I absolutely love the cover and adore the premise of a city made of wood that just keeps expanding but it sadly didn't deliver. The plot was predictable, nothing exciting happened, the characters were mostly uninteresting and I definitely thought it was more Fantasy than Sci-Fi when I first saw it but it's the other way around. I also wish the development wou ...more
Jul 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This was good, could have been brilliant but the ending was abrupt and to my mind did nothing for the story. Without the ending, I’d have given it a higher rating!

Iona is the city architect, a highly recognised and valuable member of society. She’s much in demand and when Alyssa asks her out to ask for one to one building planning tuition, she finds time to help her. But since Alyssa used what Iona knows as a ‘dream’ word, Iona becomes unsettled she met Alyssa, Iona becomes unsettled by what she
Benjamin Rathbone
Mar 25, 2020 rated it liked it
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 e
Apr 02, 2020 rated it liked it
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) ...more
Bob Scheidegger
Imagine yourself awakening some morning to the realization that the people around you are not, and have never been, real. All are made of wood, with strange clock-like inner workings.

The book is a blend of science fiction and fantasy, which involves cats who can talk (and plot against their humans), and forgotten space journeys. The building materials used in developing the city are old fashioned, almost quaint. Building projects are never finished--all the buildings keep getting taller and more
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Eddie Robson is a comedy and science fiction writer best known for his sitcom Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully and his work on a variety of spin-offs from the BBC Television series Doctor Who. He has written books, comics and short stories, and has worked as a freelance journalist for various science fiction magazines. He is married to a female academic and lives in Lancaster.


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