Title: Forest Born
Author: Shannon Hale
What it's about: In this fourth book of Bayern, we meet Rinna, the little sister of Razo. Rin's a good girl, always helping and never causing trouble, but deep inside herself, she feels that there's something wrong. When Razo comes back to the family's home in the forest, Rin decides to go with him when he returns to the capital. There she meets Isi and Enna. But before Rin can become too used to her new life, trouble strikes, and it's up to Rin and the other girls to preserve the peace.
What I thought: Some of Shannon Hale's other books that I read have taken a while to really get going. The Goose Girl, for instance, is very slow-paced at the beginning (though it's a wonderful story, don't get me wrong). But with Forest Born, everything moved quickly. I got through the nearly four hundred pages in a day, and this with having plenty of other things I needed to do, too. But the fast pace doesn't mean that there was no substance. I actually wouldn't be surprised if this became my favorite Bayern book after a couple more readings. You know, one thing that always interests me in a book is seeing a group of characters I've grown fond of from an outsider's point of view. Allow me to use an example. In Cinda Chima's The Warrior Heir, we meet Jack Swift, become familiar with his family, friends, struggles, etc. Jack's our buddy by the end. Then, in The Warrior Heir, we've suddenly got a new main protagonist character who's introduced to Jack's group, and so that's a whole different point of view of these characters, seen by a new person. Seph definitely sees things differently than a reader who's familiar with Jack's story would, and it makes you think, you know? And same with Rin in Forest Born, really. She sort of knows Enna, has met Dasha a few times, but has never known Isi. So we see Isi from a neutral point of view and are better able to see how her character has developed because Rin's narration tells us things that are unclouded by knowledge of previous events. Okay, so. That's pretty cool. Best part of the book, though? When they get to Castle Daire and actually meet the antagonist. Strewth, what an occurrence. I totally wasn't expecting it, and so it was really such a dramatic punch. And learning about Rin's true gifts and how they worked, that was really cool, too. Rin was realistic and likable overall, really. She had her faults and inner struggle, but those were actually pretty realistic ones for a teenage girl, and especially one growing up with the gifts that Rin had. And I gotta say, I just liked overall seeing the dynamic of friendship between the four girls. Isi and Enna are total besties, and Enna and Dasha's teasing was always amusing. Seeing a vulnerable side to Enna was interesting, too, as she's really a very strong character most of the time, and so her showing weakness is rare. This book definitely had its dark moments, too, which is something I like about these books, how Ms. Hale is not afraid to have things of consequence happen. But anyway, this was a great story, and it makes me want to reread the other Bayern books. Ah well, maybe over Christmas break!
Overall: A wonderful entry into the series.