Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace.
After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall…
The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land.
Swords and chivalry, quests and shrubbery, and not one Knight who says Ni!
Heartwood (Elemental Wars) by Freya Robertson, is a story that entices and captivates from the very first chapter, and beyond. Transporting the reader right into the world of Anguis and placed firmly amongst the stunning array of characters and their plight.
Robertson has created something really special with the world of Anguis and with all of its ecological and chronological functions etc. Nothing has been left out and the conveyance of this is remarkable.
In the story the Arbor is the heart of Anguis formed by the tears of the God Animus. The tears hardened and formed the Pectoris “the heart of all creation.”
With this in mind, I continued reading (not able to put it down) and saw that in the world of Anguis, every action and reaction is connected to the land and thus to the heart of the land (the Arbor). So in my mind Anguis became a major character within the story. And all though the Militas of the temple were Heartwood’s protectors, the inhabitants of the land are also connected to Anguis, in some way shape or form.
The connection of nature to everything, and how that affects the knights and vice versa.
Chonrad, Lord of Barle, is a very likeable protagonist and his interactions with his fellow knights (such as Procella), moved the story along with great fluidity. Although the world of Anguis and the ways of its people are at times complex, not once does Robertson bog the reader down with unnecessary information. Everything spoken or conveyed otherwise is done in such a way that leaves the reader wanting to know more.
The fight scenes were not overly drawn out, and the detail in which Robertson describes a battle scene, is somewhat technical but done so in a way that shows the reader every flow and strike of a sword. One of the first battles with the water warriors is a personal favourite of mine.
With the attack from the water warriors, comes a discovery that challenges the characters beliefs of their religion and of their place within Anguis.
The discovery reveals that across the four corners of the land, there are nodes (which conduct the energy from the tree to the relevant parts of the land), these nodes must be cleansed from any dark energy impeding the flow or else the land will fail.
With this information and more, the seven knights depart on their strenuous journey. Some of Heartwood’s Militis are not only struggling with the challenge of leaving the temple for the first time, but also the freedom from ritual and routine, and what that means for the knights and their quest.
The knights quest is very much like the Arbor. Each knight (in my mind)resembles a branch and upon leaving the holy place of Heartwood learns how to grow and spread their leaves etc this returns to the idea that everything is connected.
As one might see, I am quite taken with this epic tale, and I very much look forward to another trip into Anguis
A journey of the heart and a voyage of the mind. 9/10
Heartwood by Freya Robertson is available via Angry Robot (www.angryrobotbooks.com) on the 7th November in the U.K and was released on the 29th Oct in the U.S.
You can find out more about the author on http://www.freyarobertson.com and twitter.com/Freya_Robertson
This ARC was kindly provided to me by Angry Robot Books.