The Stone Heart: 05/14/17
The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks is the second book in the Nameless City trilogy. Everything seems to on track for a council to give voice to the residents of the Nameless City. That is until greed derails everything.
The Stone Heart is the name for the monks and their monastery. The are the heart and soul of the old city — the keepers of the city's history, including a single book that records how the city's founders were able to tunnel through the mountains to build the city. It is rumored that their technology was powerful enough to be a weapon of mass destruction. Whoever has the book and someone who can read the ancient text will rule the world.
Caught up in the middle of this power struggle are Kaidu and Rat. Kaidu, is a Dao by birth but not in spirit. He's a pacifist. He'd rather be a musician than a warrior. Rat is an orphan whose parents were killed by Dao warriors. Though she is tentatively Kaidu's friend, years of mistreatment by the Dao invaders has made her wary of extending her trust beyond Kaidu — or even to trusting him unconditionally.
Although this book is set in a fictional world inspired by thirteenth century China, the motifs make this very much a North America book. The motif that surprised me the most was the inclusion of corn, a western hemisphere food. It The Stone Heart within the realm of the "road not taken" and "crossing the cornfield" categories of the road narrative, despite not having any road travel associated with it.
There are a number of scenes where Kaidu and Rat come head to head over the fate of the city. Kaidu, though he's pro-Nameless City, is privileged because he's a Dao and the son of a prominent warrior. Rat, meanwhile, has everything to lose if the planned council fails. She has already lost so much — her parents and her given name. Now she's likely to lose her home (the monastery) and her life.
Kaidu and the other Dao are always shown as being urbane. When Kaidu must confront his privilege, he is shown doing so in front of the small cornfield the monks maintain — but with the background being the large buildings of the monastery and the massive expanse of the city, behind him. When Rat is there, she drawn in scale with the corn, her figure shown against a backdrop of crops and other agricultural features.
Here then, the cornfield represents a barrier of trust, of privilege, of class, of economics, of ethnicity. It separates the colonizer from the colonized.