Hearts of Oak

Tor.com. Mar. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781250260536. pap. $14.99. SF
Iona has been an architect and teacher for as long as she can remember, and the town continues to grow with designs she has done, by students she has taught. The king is interested in the progress of the city—buildings are taller, the city is bigger—but rarely goes outside to see it. The planning department assures that they always have more room. But after the death of a colleague during a building collapse, Iona notices that people are behaving strangely. She remembers words and concepts out of dreams, such as “felt,” “babies,” and “coins,” that never existed in the real world. The king’s advisor Clarence says everything is fine—but can you trust the words of a talking cat? Arson raises more questions. Iona, the king, and others soon discover that the oddities coming up have more to do with reality than they thought. Twists and surprises abound in this engaging sf adventure.
VERDICT A mesmerizing look at facing reality and what you believe to be true. Robson’s (Welcome to Our Village Please Invade Carefully) characters are well-rounded and themes of exploration and expansion undergird the playful prose.
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