**SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD**
I love Smith’s style of writing a LOT, as I have previously mentioned – her novels transport you to wonderful, impossible places with just a few magical, well-thought-out words. The first book in this series, The Night of the Solstice, took a while for me to get into, but once you do you are gripped, and I found it very easy to slip back into the world of Morgana Shee, the world’s greatest sorceress, and the Hodges-Bradley children, who had previously saved the world from the dark forces of the Wildworld that threatened to invade the Stillworld – our side of the planet. With Heart of Valour set a year and a half later, the children are more grown up and learned in the ways of magic, though it was nice to see that they were still very much the same people they were at the start of the series. Charles was, in my opinion, a rather neglected character, which with him being the only boy in a family of girls, you really wouldn’t have thought; however, the children were wonderfully unique and realistic , and what I especially liked was that they were not perfect and certainly had flaws. In fact, very few characters are properly expanded on, which they deserve to be as it’s obvious that most would have a fascinating back story.
I really liked the humour – it was pretty unexpected, especially as I don’t remember the first book being particularly funny, though I did read it quite a while ago. I’m really glad that this isn’t a romance novel, which Smith seems particularly fond of to write, but I personally think she writes too much romance into her books, and if she stuck more to action, myth and magic alongside the romance, her novels would be even better.
I think I prefer this one to the previous one – I remember that I was almost willing the story to end, but I most definitely was not doing so with Heart of Valour, though I felt a lot of the action was too jam-packed into the last few pages, with not an awful lot occurring at the beginning of the novel, except the earthquake, which obviously set things in motion as regards to Thia Pendriel’s return – the powerful ally of the evil sorcerer from The Night of the Solstice, who is bitter towards Morgana for ‘stealing’ her staff, which she believes is rightfully hers.
Although parts were predictable, like the feathered serpent being an illusion as it was clearly missed of the list of elements and Alys managing to rescue the rabbit, along with Charles returning, many bits took me by surprise, such as the Janie-thing turning out to be Thia Pendriel’s familiar, nor was I expecting the fox that Janie rescued to run away.
I am the first to admit that I am not very knowledgeable about Arthurian legend, so I don’t know if Morgana’s back story was ‘true’ or made up by Smith or a combination of both, but it was very well done and I think the flashbacks were my favourite parts as they revealed a lot more about Morgana as a character and for me were the most entertaining parts of the story.
I think many preteens would absolutely adore this book, though the first book should definitely be read first!______________________________________________________________
[SYNOPSIS: More than a year and a half has passed since Alys, Claudia, Jane and Charles helped to free the great sorceress, Morgana Shee, from imprisonment and close the passage between the Stillworld and the Wildworld. But when an earthquake hits California and continues to shake with lingering aftershocks, the Hodges-Bradley children begin to suspect this was no ordinary quake, and that the passage seal between the worlds may no longer be stable. With their parents overseas and Morgana travelling north to find the epicentre of the quake the children are left on their own. But peril lurks around every corner, and strange happenings in their home town force them on journey that will test their skills to the very limit. It seems that Morgana's archrival, Thia Pendriel, has stolen the Forgotten Gem, the Heart of Valour, and is waiting to spring her trap...]