The Heart of the World by Amie Kaufman

The Heart of the World – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Fantasy, romance, gods, magic, legends.
YA book title: The Heart of the World.
YA author: Amie Kaufman.
Genre: Fantasy.
Published by: Rock The Boat Books
ISBN: 9780861547906.
Recommended for children aged: 14+.
First published: Paperback September 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: KS3 & KS4 fantasy fans.

The Heart of the World by Amie Kaufman

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Our review:

In the beginning there was the Mother. She created all things, and the gods were her children. They each cared for their people, until in time they grew restless, and began to war among themselves…

The Heart of the World is the much-anticipated sequel to the best-selling Isle of the Gods. Although there’s a recap at the start of the book, it is likely to prove a more rewarding read for fans of Amie Kaufman’s previous work.

Former deckhand Selly has entwined her life with that of the playboy Prince Leander, who is finally starting to fulfil his destiny as part of a centuries-old sacrificial pact with the Gods. By being willing to give up his life, Leander has become the latest in a long line of Messengers from the Mother Goddess herself. By sharing in his sacrifice, Selly has bound herself to her beloved Prince as his earthly anchor in a bid to avert a deadly celestial war.

After narrowly escaping a harrowing fate on the mysterious Isle of the Gods, the pair are now on the run, accompanied by scholar Keegan who would rather study than do battle with the gods. Hot on their tail is the ruthless assassin Laskia, who has acquired her own mysterious powers from the Isles. As well as being a cold-blooded killer, Laskia is also blackmailing Leander’s former friend Jude in her bid to kill the Prince and destroy the precarious balance that for the last five hundred years has appeased the gods and kept them asleep.

My god, stirring in the depths of my psyche, tells me what I must do.
This power will consume me if I don’t obey him.

As Leander struggles to retain his grip on his human presence and Laskia grows in deadly power, Selly is forced to take on the forces of both warring kingdoms and rival gods in a bid to save her Prince and the entire kingdom. The stage is set for a deadly battle at the Heart of the World – the famed Bibliotek library which serves as both the repository for all knowledge and the meeting place for the gods.

The Heart of the World is an immersive, fast-paced adventure that will grip readers from the first to the last page. Be prepared to lose sleep as you stay up late to gasp through the tense climax before reluctantly emerging back into the real world.

Themes of love, sacrifice, family and destiny are woven together in this intricately plotted epic tale. The world-building that Kaufman established in The Isle of the Gods is even more detailed here, with myths and magic combined with sea-faring practicalities and political machinations.

Although the book again focuses mainly on Selly, the occasional chapters told from Leander, Jude, Keegan and Lasikia’s perspectives give depth to their characterisation and allow the reader to gain new insights into this complicated band of heroes and anti-heroes. There is a rich seam of diversity in the characters’ lives that gives the tale a modern relevance despite its fantasy setting.

As with The Isles of the Gods, the violence and emotional trauma that the characters face make The Heart of the World more suited to an older readership.

The Heart of the World is a fantastically rich, swashbuckling adventure that will appeal to fans of Tamora Pierce and Kalynn Bayron.

Many thanks to Rock The Boat Books for the review copy.

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If you like The Heart of the World by Amie Kaufman you might also like: our reviews of Thieves’ Gambit by Kayvion Lewis, The Isles of the Gods by Amie Kaufman and This Book Kills by Ravena Guron and The Girl Who Grew Wings by Anna Waterworth.

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About Melanie Dillon

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Melanie has a Master’s degree in Information and Library Management; a Post Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature focusing on the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme & LGBT YA fiction, and extensive experience working in school and public libraries. Linkedin | Reviews by Melanie Dillon