Review and interview: Heartwood

Heartwood by Freya Robertson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an advance copy courtesy of Netgalley and ANGRY ROBOT Ltd.


As a fan of epic, military fantasy, I've read quite a few in my days and is honestly impressed with Heartwood.

Freya Robertson did an amazing job starting the novel immediately with action rather than chapters and chapters of back-stories. Also amazing job on character characteristics, emotions and growth. I liked how the characters had different quests or hidden agendas from one another but still manage to connect and flow together perfectly.

Robertson's world building was spot on.

Looking for an epic novel with a fresh and new take? This. is. it.


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.

Interview with the author:

What inspired you to write Heartwood?

Oh, so many things! Studying castles and monasticism and the Templars at university. Reading about Robin Hood and King Arthur as a child. Watching movies like LOTR, Excalibur, Kingdom of Heaven. Reading authors like Terry Brooks, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Charles De Lint.

Who is the cover artist?

His name is Alejandro Colucci, and the map is by Steve Luxton.

How did you come up with the title?

The oak tree called the Arbor is the focus of the people’s religion in the story, and the fortified temple built around it is called Heartwood. I liked the idea of it being the center of the novel—like the heartwood of a tree.

If you had to choose, which character would you like to be?

Oh, definitely Procella, the leader of Heartwood’s army. She’s brave and feisty and much fitter than I am! I’d love to be able to swing a sword and ride a horse like her!

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The word message sort of implies I’m trying to convince readers of something, and that’s not the case at all. My thoughts and feelings on the medieval period, on history and on religion will no doubt shine through, but they are my own personal feelings and are not meant to be preachy. It’s more a case of me pouring my heart onto the paper and saying “have a read of this!”

How much of the book is realistic?

If the magical aspect is removed, the majority of what is left is real. Characters lead very similar lives to how people would have lived in the high medieval period. There are recognizable animals, plants and flowers, and the characters are hopefully real too, with emotions and motivations that readers can recognize and empathize with.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not a single thing. I wrote it from the heart and to me it’s perfect just the way it is! This book holds more of me in it than anything else I’ve written. Because of this, it’s kind of nerve-racking to release it to the big wide world. But ultimately, I wrote it to please myself, and my editor loved it, so that’s all that matters really ;-)

Were there any difficulties getting your novel published?

I tried to get an agent and/or publisher for a while with no success, and eventually let the book sit in my bottom drawer for a while. In the meantime I wrote 23 romances and learned an awful lot about editing. When Angry Robot Books had their Open Door submission call for epic fantasy, I dusted the manuscript off and applied my new skills to the story, and was lucky enough to get picked up by them.

What would you like to say to your readers?

I hope you enjoy the story and like the characters enough to come back for the second book! Sunstone will be published in March 2014.

What are some must-haves on your writing desk? 

My laptop. Post-its. Pens. Hundreds of notebooks. My new iPad mini. Sometimes I have flowers. The fluffy sheep keyring I was given when I became a New Zealand citizen. And a bar of chocolate and a can of Coke Zero (or most likely a glass of wine!) 

Freya Robertson
About the author:

Freya is a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, as well as a dedicated gamer. She has a deep and abiding fascination for the history and archaeology of the middle ages and spent many hours as a teenager writing out notecards detailing the battles of the Wars of the Roses, or moping around museums looking at ancient skeletons, bits of rusted iron and broken pots.

Freya lives in the glorious country of New Zealand Aotearoa, where the countryside was made to inspire fantasy writers and filmmakers, and where they brew the best coffee in the world.

You can find her online at her website as well as on Twitter and Facebook.
Amazon Author Link: