Heart of Valor, by L J Smith

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Summary: (Taken from Amazon.ca) When an earthquake shakes California, Alys, Janie, Charles and Claudia suspect it isn’t just a typical earthquake. A year and a half after their journey into the Wildworld, they believe that the Passage between their world, the Stillworld, and that parallel universe of legend and danger may no longer be stable.

With their parents overseas and the great sorceress Morgana Shee traveling north to find the epicenter of the quake, the siblings are left on their own. But peril lurks around every corner. A magical attack sends the Hodges-Bradley kids’ on a journey that will test all of their skills, including Janie’s sorcery and Claudia’s ability to communicate with animals.

Morgana’s archrival, Thia Pendriel, is waiting. With Heart of Valor, the Forgotten Gem she has stolen, Thia’s power is almost limitless—and she is ready to spring her trap.

Thoughts: This book being the sequel to Night of the Solstice, I was glad to see that it detailed a lot more of Morgana’s past. No longer was she seen as the sorceress who had a very magical mystical-sounding name, but she was tied back to the Morgan of Arthurian legend, giving her a depth even beyond what Smith writes of her character.

We see a significant growth in maturity for the four main characters, too. Their personalities are much the same as we saw them in the previous book, but their adventures last time, plus their continued presence around magic, has helped them to grow and strengthen. It was nice to see characters who grew without changing completely, and remained familiar without acting as though the past never occurred.

This wasn’t a spectacular novel, but it was a fun one to read nevertheless. It had good pacing, a good mix of calm deduction and heavy action, and would be a good read for mid-grade kids who enjoy a good modern-day fantasy story involving ordinary children getting to save the world. Teenagers and adults may still get enjoyment from this novel, too, though perhaps more as a fluff read than anything else.

If this book has any one flaw, it’s that it takes trips to Exposition City. Crazy things happen, and when all is said and done, somebody has to recap and fill in the blanks with information that they have cleverly deduced somehow but that never actually gets a mention in the story itself. It ties up loose ends, certainly, but it makes for a weak ending.

Still, I can’t say I didn’t have fun reading this one, even if for me most of the fun was in the nostalgia of the book, reliving a few days in high school when I’d found a copy of this tucked back in the shelves.

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