Forest Born

I cannot tell you how much it pleases me to have seen over at Shannon Hale’s blog that this:

is going to be released in a hardcover version like this:

Hooray for Alison Jay’s gorgeous artwork! All is as it should be with the world. When I was reading Forest Born last week, I was bemoaning the fact that the Bayern covers went from beautifully evocative and unique, to cheap-looking and a little bit laughable due to cheesiness. I had no idea that the series was still being made available with the original cover art, in the U.S. hardcover editions. In celebration, I have just ordered Enna Burning and River Secrets to go along with my Goose Girl (a little pre-birthday prezzie to myself), and will be sure to snag Forest Born when it comes out in October. Won’t they look pretty all together on my desk, in pride of place?

Which brings me to Forest Born… It is astonishing that I had an ARC of this book for a year and a half before I finally got around to reading it. Astonishing, and wrong. I adore the Bayern books, and I cannot wait to own all four so that I can indulge in the absolute treat of reading them one after the other all the way to the end. I am delighted to report that this, the fourth book in the series, is in many ways as satisfying and captivating as its three predecessors. If you’re a Hale fan, I doubt you will be disappointed in Forest Born.

This time, the story is Rin’s, Razo’s younger sister. In the beginning, she is unsettled by the growing feeling that she is suddenly out of place in the home she has always loved. The trees have always offered her solace and peace, but her connection with the forest seems to have changed. Where once she felt calm, she now finds only ugliness and fear. So Rin leaves the forest and heads to the city, to serve in the royal court. Adventure and danger soon follow, and Rin comes to know that she possesses a power that could be more destructive than anything she has ever known or imagined. 

It doesn’t have the humour of River Secrets, even though Razo does feature in the plot, and brings laughs with him. Hale succeeds brilliantly in making Rin a complicated, sympathetic character. You really feel like you are inside her head as you move through the story. Her struggle and her sense of isolation creates a strong emotional impact as you read. You want her to find her way and feel happy in herself. Of course, it wouldn’t be Shannon Hale without lovely poetic turns of phrase and some terrific action and just enough romance to make you dream of being a part of the world of the story too. Rarely do books absorb me in the way that these have. When I read a Shannon Hale fantasy, I feel like a kid again, when I used to hole up for hours and hours in my room reading and reading until I’d finished the whole book, completely forgetting about the “real world” and never wanting the characters to leave my mind.

If you haven’t read these books, you don’t know what you’re missing. Read them all – tacky covers or not. You couldn’t ask for more entertaining stories.

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