Simon Scarrow: Hearts of Stone (review)

Simon Scarrow

Simon Scarrow is a Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author. His bestsellers include his novels featuring Roman soldiers Macro and Cato, most recently THE BLOOD CROWS, PRAETORIAN and THE LEGION, as well as SWORD AND SCIMITAR, about the 1565 Siege of Malta, and four novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte. He is the author with T. J. Andrews of the bestselling ARENA, introducing the gladiator hero Pavo, and the new ebook novella series INVADER.

Simon’s novels have been published in the USA and in translation all around the world.

Author website

Book Description

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Hearts of Stone

The fierce courage of the men and women of the Greek Resistance is brought to vivid life in Sunday Times bestseller Simon Scarrow’s powerful new novel of World War II. 1938. A perfect summer on the Greek island of Lefkas for three young people untroubled by the simmering politics of Europe. Peter, visiting from Germany while his father leads an archaeological dig, has become close friends with locals Andreas and Eleni. As the world slides towards conflict and Peter is forced to leave, they swear to meet again. 1943: Andreas and Eleni have joined the partisan forces resisting the German invasion. Peter has returned – now a dangerously well-informed enemy intelligence officer. A friendship formed in peace will turn into a desperate battle between enemies sworn to sacrifice everything for the countries that they love…


I have been waiting for this book from Simon Scarrow since 2012, because when ever he steps away from the Roman world he manages to produce something special. The last time was Sword and Scimitar , a fantastic view of one of histories great turning points.

This latest book is set during a much more recent, more sensitive era, both pre WW2, during and post WW2. An era filled with so many atrocities and horrors that don’t often translate to a book and yet with so many tales of courage and sacrifice that should be remembered.

For me that’s what this book has at its core, a retelling of the type of heroism and sacrifice that existed in Greece during the war, a remembrance of the level of horror visited down  to the level of one small group of friends in one small community on one small island. The backdrop of youthful friendship is a fantastic foil for the war-time age of the characters, the change caused by war and impact it has had on each of the core group of friends and family, how they are all irrecoverably changed by circumstance and situation. The setting and device of the search for the tomb of Odysseus adds a level of romanticism to the plot that’s coupled with the young love of Eleni and Andreas and the bitter-sweet sense of missed opportunity for Peter. How many of us have had grandparents / Great Grandparents lost in the wars, or returned but with painful memories? how many of them have shared those stories even a little bit, sanitised to protect us from the enormity that was war? Simon delivers that experience in a realistic and emotive fashion, showing the power of those memories and the importance of not forgetting, and learning from our collective pasts, and how much brighter the flame burned because of the simpler yet harsher times.

Simon as always has managed to bring all of the plot elements and characters together into a well researched, sympathetically told tale, add to this his usual impeccable research and awareness of the landscape and the end result is a highly engaging, very personal account of War torn Greece. The element that drives the story forward without it being “just another war story” is the time-slip device, the plot told from present day, Eleni looking back and retelling her experiences to her granddaughter, sharing that glimmer of the past, the hardships, the life lived, against the modern world of her granddaughter determined to not let the past slip away. It’s the constant drift back and forth in time that drives the reader to want to turn just one more page… and then suddenly the book is gone, finished.

If i had one niggle with the book its at the start, there are some very jarring, for want of a better phrase ” digs” at modern society, modern devices etc, the social commentary of modern times.. and i have to say i agree with just about every single one of them, i just didn’t feel they added to the book, in fact i didn’t think they worked in the book, they felt a little like a soap box moment before the book. (sorry Simon, agreed with pretty much every word though), they pulled me away from the story. When i wanted to be drifting into the world Simon had created i kept jarring back to reality, for me the points would have worked much better in the afterword, at this point the poignant finish of the book leaving the reader reflective and open to reading about why the world needs history, why we should learn from it, why we need to switch off from the internet etc..But this was a small quibble in what is another really good book, one where every character is someone, and you care what happens to them. 

I’m very interested to see what stand alone novel Simon produces next. and recommend that you buy this one immediately


Cato & Macro
1. Under the Eagle (2000)
2. The Eagle’s Conquest (2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
5. The Eagle’s Prey (2004)
6. The Eagle’s Prophecy (2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
aka The Zealot
8. Centurion (2007)
9. The Gladiator (2009)
10. The Legion (2010)
11. Praetorian (2011)
12. The Blood Crows (2013)
13. Brothers in Blood (2014)

1. Young Bloods (2006)
2. The Generals (2007)
3. Fire and Sword (2007)
4. The Fields of Death (2010)
The Wellington and Napoleon Quartet: Young Bloods / The Generals / Fire and Sword / Fields of Death(omnibus) (2015)

1. Fight for Freedom (2011)
2. Street Fighter (2012)
3. Son of Spartacus (2013)
4. Vengeance (2014)
Roman Arena
1. Barbarian (2012)
2. Challenger (2012)
3. First Sword (2013)
4. Revenge (2013)
5. Champion (2013)
Arena (omnibus) (2013)

1. Death Beach (2014)
2. Blood Enemy (2014)
3. Dark Blade (2014)
4. Imperial Agent (2015)
5. Sacrifice (2015)

The Sword and the Scimitar (2012)
Hearts of Stone (2015)
Britannia (2015)

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Simon Scarrow

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