When venomous plants called somnolents infect BELLE, a turbulent journey downriver ensues for DOUGRAY and ROBBIE. Accompanied by faithful TISSER, a Toggle, they are set upon by Black Wolves that pursue them downriver. After a vicious attack, they arrive at Syone, the fabled sanctuary of the Healers. There they meet SOJOURN, an elemental, who wants to accompany them to Wychwyre, home of pickpockets and cutthroats. As terrible as the place sounds, they need to journey there to locate NAVARRE, the Fifty-Third Initiate. Last of all to see their father alive, he alone might hold the clue to his present whereabouts. When evil creatures breach and overrun Syone, they are forced to flee underground in a boat. They find themselves under the mountain where an ancient, uninhabited city called Halanden shakes them to the core with its terrible secrets. They narrowly escape huge centipedes that have infested the city. On the way to Wychwyre, DRAZEN, a self-appointed tyrant, captures them. With the aid of Sojourn and the true ruler, SKYLARK, Robbie and Belle uncover Drazen’s sinister schemes when they secretly follow him into the forest. Belle is recaptured, but Robbie flees and stumbles across PELIAS BALAHAD, the Resistance leader from Book One. He and Sojourn assist Robbie back into Wychwyre through a secret back door. After a bloody battle in which Sojourn is almost lost, Drazen stumbles from a tower and dies. At last, Wychwyre is free of the tyrant’s rule. But Skylark is mortally wounded and only Sojourn can heal him. She is gravely ill herself, and being an elemental, requires her ‘home-tree’ to survive. Robbie assists her to the tree and she imparts to him her own remarkable secret. She was the carrier of the lost, green crystal!

Greenheart of the Forest is the next instalment in the Bethloria fantasy series and follows the continuing quest of the three heroes: Robbie, Dougray and Belle. A fast paced and exciting story it is a great sequel to the first book: Firelight of Heaven. As with the first book there are battles and dangers throughout this story. However, in addition, there is a developing complexity in the plot as the boys learn that their parents may not be dead as they had always believed. We also get to see the continuing development of each character – the two boys in particular. As the story is brought to us through both boys’ points of view, we get to enjoy the inner thoughts of each and the way circumstances effect and develop them. Belle remains a little more enigmatic but her presence is by no means a simple plot device. She is strong and resilient; a source of strength and pragmatism when the boys need it. The world of Bethloria is diverse and dark in this early stage of the series. There is a great variety in the locations in which the trio find themselves: a gardened sanctuary, an abandoned underground city and a walled town filled with plague-infested peasants to name a few. The environment is not a mere backdrop though; it is a necessary part of the story and used to great effect to convey mood and atmosphere. Overall, I really enjoyed Greenheart of the Forest and found it to be a great follow-on from the first book. It has action, mystery and even a hint of romance. It will appeal to any fantasy-lovers both young and old.
- Reviewed by Peta Biggin (Buzz Words)