on August 21, 2003
Full of cruelty, brutality, pain, and anguish.
The strange way of telling little stories within the larger one threw me at first. I was expecting this to be a device only in the prologue. After reading for a while, I got into the flow of the story telling. I easily became enraptured of this tale and read it vigorously throughout the day and night. The style of the book seems biblical, with the names and the little titles throughout each chapter remincent of biblical names/titles. His new ideas were sharp and refreshing, in other words not a fantasy novel I had read before.
The basic fantasy constructs are there: Nobles, witches, wizards, and magic. The plot has epic proportions, but has Card's brevity and simplicity of description.
The worst and best part of the novel is the ending. The reader is left hanging at the end, but if you are able to come to the (almost) inevitable conclusion, then you will be satisfied. (Otherwise it leaves you pulling your hair.)
The villianess of the story is evil yet abused in such a way that she should be pitied for her situation, but still justly delt with in the end. Great and powerful, abused and flawed. The debate over her abuse makes this book less black and white, and more shades of gray.
The most lingering question you will have after reading 'Hart's Hope' is, 'What is evil, anyway?' Is Evil a single act? A single retribution? A single greed? Or is Evil a festering wound that takes years to nurture, molding it as you would a lump of clay? If Evil is singular, can it be absolved? Where does Evil end, and where does it begin?
'Hart's Hope' is one of the best books I have ever read. It still clings to me like a sticky web, trailing from my fingers as I pass my hand across all that I own, all that I am. And I ask myself, "What If?"
When Palicrovol defeats the bad King Nasilee, he only has to force the king's daughter Asineth to marry him and consummate the marriage in order for him to rule Burland. Palicrovol's single act of mercy in not killing Asineth as he was told he should do would eventually become his undoing. Instead of killing her, Palicrovol sends Asineth away with the powerful wizard Sleeve, but not before he has tagged Asineth with the name 'Beauty'.
Beauty's thirst for vengeance and power over the man who defiled her is legend, overpowering even the bonds of motherhood when she gives birth to a ten-month child, a bad omen. Obtaining magical powers through her child, Beauty sets out to challenge King Palicrovol.
Beauty leaves Palicrovol with his kingship, but takes over her father's city, renamed Inwit. She transforms Palicrovol's virgin bride into a hideous visage and renames her Weasel. Palicrovol, banished from the city, eventually finds himself spellbound to take a farmer's wife on the shores of a river.
The farmer's wife births a son named Orem. The majority of the story is about Orem's upbringing and adventure into Inwit, where Orem will meet his fate with Queen Beauty. Along the way are many unsettling events, one of my favorites being Orem's encounter with the Sweet Sisters, deformed co-joined twins separated by magic.
Hart's Hope is written with such lavish and precise prose that I could feel the wind, hear the lapping waters of the river, see the gates of the city, and smell the putrescence of Beggarstown. 'Hart's Hope' is as magical and mystical as your imagination will stretch, yet completely absorbing with its realistic description and dialogue.
It is a heart-wrenching tale of despair and broken promises, of abuse and outright evil, and of the hope that lingers in the hearts of those who keep faith. Steeped in curious creeds and mysticisms, Orem faces off against Beauty even knowing that he must sacrifice the one thing he holds most dear to his heart.
If you are a fantasy lover, you mustn't miss out on this spectacular tale. Though I warn you, it is dark. Truly one of the best books I have ever read. Enjoy!
on November 9, 2003
I think this is an incredibly original book. During the last ten years or so, I read lots of fantasies just to pass my time, and forgot most of them (which is what they probably deserved anyway). Not so with this story, which I read again recently. The first thing that captures the reader is the style of the writing: it is a letter written by one of the characters to another; but softly, without the reader noticing how, the perspective switches and all of a sudden we have a story narrated from an outsider's perspective. The ending brings it all back, in a manner that leaves you almost on the verge of frustration: you don't know exactly what will happen, the book doesn't tell you. Yet, you know the choices. In some sense, you can write your own ending. This is one of the beauties of this story: it includes the reader in it.
The characters are so interesting because they are, after all, very ambiguous. The character you would think was the hero at the beginning of the book has to commit rape to fulfill his destiny; the true hero is in fact an unwilling victim. The villain commits gruesome acts, but you understand her motives and you cannot help but feel that she, too, is trapped in something bigger than herself.
The theme of the story is downright bloody - like a dark secret that you would rather not know, yet it fascinates you. It leaves the reader with a feeling of uneasiness, perhaps because there's a strong taboo that gets violated in the book. The feeling of distress is compounded by the fact that the narrator of the story is supposed to be a character who tells only the truth. A great story.
on April 25, 2000
I was told that Orson Scott Card was a prolific writer. That may be true, but I'll tell you another thing about Mr. Card, based on this book (which is my first by him), he is a brilliant writer in addition to a prolific one.
It's a short book, but every chapter, every page, every word carefully guides you through a story that has your "heart" racing throughout. This book exuded more emotion in me than any 1000 page Fantasy book ever has.
Mr. Card creates a world in which magic, love, sadness, guilt, hope and dreams are so intertwined that without any of them, none can exist. I suppose that's what life is all about. Imagine, a fantasy book teaching the ways of reality.
on May 3, 2002
A very good friend recommended `Harts Hope' to me years ago. It was my introduction to Orson Scott Card and it shattered my concept of fantasy.
I have yet to this day found another novel that has stuck with me so completely. I became engrossed in the story from the first paragraph and enraptured by the end. The words flowed through you like liquid poetry. I found myself stopping many times to re-read paragraphs that stunned me with the beauty of their flow and imagery.
I have purchased this book for many friends who have come back to it as many times as I have. I recommend it highly!
on February 26, 2001
Orson Scott Card has written another angelic piece folded into the pages of a book. This novel shows fantasy with a twist of modernization. The tense in which he chose to wrote works beautifully with the mysterious plot.
In the time of knights, dragons, and gods, there is a kingdom ruled by a tyrant known as King Nasilee. His young daughter, age seven at the beginning of the book, is named Asineth, known more formally as Little Queen or Queen Beauty. As tyrants are not known to rule for long, the kingdom is easily overtaken by the young Count Palicroval.
Her father murdered before her eyes, Little Queen longs for revenge. Hatred burns within her veins as her own blood. Asineth shall get her revenge, and those who made her suffer will now feel the fruits of her suffering.
The Gods fall into devastation, as Queen Beauty grows strong. But all may end well, for Hart has bred a son. Through Palicroval and a young farmer, Orem is born.
Orem is only alive for one purpose. After achieving his goal, the gods may lose interest in him.
But should he succeed, Asineth's haters may wish to gain revenge of their own. And the world may be stricken with grief, by this undying vengeance.
I found this book enchanting. It contains a vast and complex plot with a small amount of sexual content, which makes it inappropriate for children. There are a few character deaths and a great deal of violence and gore.
I would recommend this book for older and more advanced readers.
on November 21, 1997
No matter whether you read Card's current or old stuff, it's all great! In this moving tale published in 1983, the story reads as a skillful blending of a long parable and historical Bible narrative. Think this might sound boring? Not in the least. Card draws you into the story and provokes you to think. This is one of his many gifts. There is hidden meaning throughout this book. You'll see this in both the obvious and subtle passages of the story. And as you reflect on what he has to say, you'll also find yourself relating to his characters. You'll care for them. And as they experience trials, hardships, pain, sacrifice, and joy, you'll experience it along with them. In Hart's Hope, Card uses one of his typical character techniques: A young child. In this case, two young children. Though their birth's are separated in time by many years, their paths are destined to cross. And though both have been inflicted with childhood scars of unjust pain and suffering, their ultimate divergent responses are as opposite as night and day. Where the one chooses to permanently hate and seek retribution, the other seeks to heal. And in doing so, ascends to those heights attainable only through self-sacrificing love. My only disappointment with this book was that it had to end. Like all of Card's stories, you don't want the story to finish, but to just keep going on.
on September 26, 1998
Card makes one of his rare forays into fantasy here, and it's quite successful. It's also very probably the saddest book he's ever written--I was depressed as hell after reading the ending, but then, that Card's capable of evoking that emotion in me is a testament to his prowess. The narrative style's a bit weird, but you quickly get used to it. And what's this about it being out of print? I demand that somebody rerelease it!
on July 23, 1998
This is the finest allegorical morality play I have read in many years. It ranks up there with "Pilgrim's Progress" and the Book of Job.
The story is plainly told in a style suited for all levels of readers. I consider this book to be the most literary and sophisticated of all Mr. Card's works (and I have read virtually all of his books and short stories).
This book moved me and left me feeling helpless. Greg Bear's "Forge of God" is the only other novel that has ever evoked in me the same response (although Bear's book is not quite of the same high merit).
"Hart's Hope" should be required reading for all American Literature students in high school or college.
It is a crime that this book is out of print. If any person can tell me where to get a hardbound copy, please let me know.
on April 13, 2007
In typical Orson Scott Card fashion, Hart's Hope does not disappoint. One of the things I love about Card is that each one of his books are entirely different, yet they are instantly identifiable as a book that he authored. What's even better is that he always exceeds my expectations. I could build up a book of his in my head for five years, and it would still be better than I could ever imagine. The man is magical with a pen (or a computer) and with Hart's Hope, he has written a truly magical tale.
Orson Scott Card has describe Hart's Hope as the most classic fantasy novel he has written, meaning that the book holds all the elements of a traditional fantasy. It takes place during an unstated time, yet seems medieval in fashion. It involves magic, sorcerers, kingdoms lost, kingdoms fought for, kingdoms saved, vengeance, and kings and queens. It's quite the epic novel wrapped up into a little under 300 pages.
Hart's Hope is the story of Orem, the unknown son of the king, Palicroval. Palicroval has killed the current king and taken the king's daughter as his wife. The king's daughter then decides to take vengeance and becomes Queen Beauty through a truly horrifying ritual of blood and sorcery. Queen Beauty in turn has put the king, Palicroval under a horrible spell and sees his every move. The Hart is a stag of 100 horns, a god of power. The Hart leads Palicroval to a woman who fathers Palicroval's son, though Palicroval is unaware of it. The child is named Orem and has powers that are unknown to anyone, even to himself. All of these storylines interweave into a very complex but surprisingly easy to understand plot that takes us on a truly magical, wondrous, and at times horrifyingly graphic, yet beautiful story.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I've never been disappointed with Card. I've read nearly his whole library and find it very hard to rank books of his in order of which I like best, though I must admit that my favorite book of his is still Speaker For The Dead, the sequel to Ender's Game. The great thing about Card's novels is the love we feel for his characters. He has a gift of bringing a touch of humanity to all of his characters. I care about his characters like no other author's. Hart's Hope was no exception.
I enjoyed this one very much and would recommend it to any fans of fantasy. And for those that aren't crazy about that genre, you may still like this book. The writing and the story itself stand alone without being classified into a genre. Beautiful book!