Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Forest Born

Forest Born

Shannon Hale
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Bloomsbury Books, 2010   ISBN: 978-1599906928

Rin is very close to her brother Razo, and so when he announces that he is going to live in the city, and leaves their forest home without even saying goodbye, Rin is very upset. For four days anger builds in Rin’s little seven-year-old body. When another little girl, Nordra, comes to visit, Rin takes out her anger on the visitor, demanding that Nordra give Rin her stick, her doeskin boots, her red hair cloth, and her doll. Rin demands and Nordra seems to have no choice but to give in.

When Rin’s mother comes home she sees that Nordra is crying and asks what is amiss. Rin says that she asked for the things and Nordra gave them to her. Rin’s mother is very displeased when she hears this and she tells her daughter not to ask for things that do not belong to her. Furthermore, Rin should keep her mouth shut if she does not have “something nice to say.”

Mortified and hurt, Rin runs into the forest and takes refuge among the trees. She hugs a tree begging for forgiveness, which is when something extraordinary happens. Through the tree Rin experiences something that gives her peace and she is able to calm down enough to understand that what she did was wrong. In future she would ask for nothing and “keep the harsh words inside.”

Trying to keep the words inside is not easy for Rin. She copies the people she admires, people like Razo and Ma, and when it all becomes too much she goes to the trees. They give her a peace and an understanding that soothes her.

Then, when she is teenager, Rin grows interested in a boy called Wilem, and just as she did with Nordra, she demands that he gives her something. In this instance she wants kisses and all his attention. She compels him to do what she wants with her words. The next day everything feels wrong inside and Rin seeks out the trees, but this time they offer nothing. Instead they throw her angry and desperate feelings back at her. Rin feels as if the trees are rejecting her.

Without the trees to help her, Rin struggles to manage, not knowing what is wrong with her and what to do about her aching heart and the darkness that swirls inside her. Then Razo and Dasha, his lady friend, come to visit, and when it is time for them to return to the city Rin goes with them. She has no real wish to see the city, but she does feel compelled to run away. Perhaps somewhere else she will change, as Razo did. Perhaps the world beyond will fix what is broken in her so that she can go home.

Razo is one of Bayern’s Own. He is a member of Queen Isi and King Geric’s inner circle of advisors and helpers. Thanks to his connections he is able to get Rin a job in the castle working for the queen. It is soon discovered that Rin is very good with the Queen Isi’s little son, Tusken, and so she becomes his minder while his usual minder, Cilie, is away from the castle. When Cilie returns and tries to take Tusken back from Rin, Rin resists. There is something about Cilie that feels wrong, and when she tries to take Tusken away from Rin by force, Rin stands her ground. She then tells the queen that she feels that Celie cannot be trusted, and the queen follows Rin’s advice.

Queen Isi’s friend Enna is getting ready for her wedding when they hear that a village on the border with Kel has been attacked. Normally they would not make a fuss about such an event, but something is brewing in Kel, and the king and queen of Bayern are worried. It is decided that King Geric will go to investigate and he will take Bayern’s Own with him.

Ten days later a messenger brings news that King Geric’s expedition was attacked. They were visiting a little village that had been “torched to its timbers,” when fire came out of nowhere. One man was killed and the king was badly burned. Isi, Enna, and Dasha all guess that a fire-speaker is responsible. They immediately set out to meet up with the king’s group, and they take Rin and Razo with them.

Enna, Isi, and Dasha are all fire-speakers, and Enna and Isi also control the wind. Dasha can control the water. This is how these gifts always are. If you have a potentially dangerous ability, like fire-speaking, you also have another ability that brings balance to the gift so that it can be controlled.

Rin is glad that she is going to with the queen’s party. She still feels the need to run away from the feelings inside her and maybe she will find what she seeks as she helps the fire-speakers protect their people and their country from this new danger.

In this fabulous fourth book in the Bayern series, we meet a young woman whose inner struggles leave her feeling very lost, confused, and alone. She hopes to be of service to those she admires, and has no idea that in the end she, Rin, will be the one who has to face a dangerous enemy.

This beautifully written book will delight readers who have followed the stories of Enna, Isi and their friends in the earlier Bayern tales.

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