Book Review | Heartwood by Freya Robertson [Contributor]

Heartwood is the first in a series called Elemental Wars. It is set in a land of knights where countries are torn by war. The one thing that ties them together is a the Arbor, a holy tree. The tree is the center of their religion, their culture, and their land. As the story opens,  delegates from each country gather at a peace summit that seems to be past hope and the last straw to save  the war-torn land.

Freya Robertson creates a vivid setting in a land with a rich culture that is at the same time is missing key elements because of a great earthquake hundreds of years before. During the peace summit delegates are attacked by creatures that rise out of water to  steal the heart of the Arbor. It is the sacred heart upon which  their beliefs are based, causing them to reach deeper and to learn more about the missing elements of their religion. Finding that they need to reactivate the energy nodes the knights divide into seven groups to complete a quest to save the tree.

I found myself drawn in at the beginning of the story with the surprise elements of water warriors and of a war between earth and water. I was intrigued how each quest had different tasks to perform at each of the energy nodes, which was connected to a particular knight in each group. These tasks added to the storyline and added variety. Robertson splits a group of knights into seven quests and within each chapter she switches between these quests. While I felt a bit lost in the middle while following the seven different quests, it all came back together at the end. When all the groups gathered back together for the final battle, I was drawn back into a satisfying ending.  

I feel a book is good if I am willing to reread it, not because I missed details but because I felt connected to the characters and what was happening. However, while Heartwood is an intriguing story, I struggled to connect with the characters.  The story line jumps from each quest every four to six pages, and I found myself losing track of what was happening with other the other quests. While I found the story interesting and the details well done, I felt a lack of connection throughout the book and the different quests.  

I would have to reread Heartwood not because of a connection to the characters, but because I still feel like I missed some key elements.  The characters, while initially interesting, were not developed enough for me to really feel drawn or connected too them.

Mother to three rambunctious boys, Anjuli Burton would rather quilt or read fantasy novels (especially Brandon Sanderson) than sleep and manages to find time to do both, all while raising her gang in the beautiful American northwest.

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Heartwood Book Cover Heartwood
Elemental Wars
Freye Robertson
Angry Robot
October 29, 2013
ARC provided by publisher

A dying tree, a desperate quest, a love story, a last stand.

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.


  1. The cover is great for this book and the world building sounds awesome but it’s too bad that it jumps around so much.