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Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Forest Born by Shannon Hale

Ah, the Books of Bayern.  I have always been a sucker for a good series, and this is one of my faves.  The series starts with The Goose Girl, an adaptation of the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, about a young princess who, on her way to marry a prince from a foreign land, is betrayed by her handmaid, and is forced to flee and eventually become a goose girl in the palace of the kingdom where she was meant to become queen—where her handmaid is standing in her place.  Throughout the story, she learns the languages of birds, her horse, and even the wind itself.

Shannon Hale then takes the idea of learning the languages of animals and nature and spins it into a whole world, expanding from the characters she first introduced in Goose Girl.  My favorite of the series is Enna Burning, the second novel, which deals primarily with the language of fire, which I find utterly fascinating.  The third book, River Secrets, is not my favorite, but does definitely introduce some great characters, along with letting us see a whole new land.

Forest Born is the fourth novel, and the farthest character-wise that we get from the other books—the main character is Rin, the younger sister of Razo, who was the focus of River Secrets.  Rin is, as the title suggests, a Forest Born, never been to the city before, having lived her whole life in the small community of her family, deep in the forest.  She’s loved the trees and the solace of the forest for as long as she can remember—but now things have changed.  She feels that something is wrong inside her—she doesn’t feel at ease in the forest anymore, and the very trees that she used to turn to for comfort seem to be turning her away.

I have to admit, it took me a while to like Rin.  I’d had high hopes for her, because she’d made a little appearance in River Secrets, and she was such a striking character in that, that when I was looking through her eyes, I found myself a little disappointed.  She’s a character that holds back—everything.  Words, demands, even requests.  She’s not the easiest character to like, but I know Shannon Hale’s books well enough to know that even if I didn’t start out liking the girl, she’d turn into something fantastic—which is exactly what she did, and what the story is about, after all.

I was cheering for Rin by the end of the novel, excited for her as she learned to embrace parts of herself she was afraid of, things she was capable of that scared her.  I think that’s something  that’s not only relatable, but also empowering.  It reminds me of the quote from Marianne Williamson.  “Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is out light, not our darkness that frightens us.”  Rin is the embodiment of this quote, and she learns that being powerful is not always a bad thing—it depends on what you do with that power.  I ended up really enjoying this book, and there was a lot of interaction with characters from the previous books.  It was nice to see Rin absorbed into this sisterhood of “fire sisters” who we already knew and loved, and yet become a strong personality in her own right.

All in all, I’m going to give Forest Born a very strong B+.  Slow to start, but I loved it by the end.


Lisa’s Tuesday Perspective: Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

Enna BurningSomehow Enna Burning, the second in the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale is much less popular than its predecessor, The Goose Girl.  Personally I don’t understand this at all.  Admittedly, I have a tendency to tastes somewhat contrary to the crowd, but when I read the two books next to each other… for me there’s no competition.

Enna makes The Goose Girl look tame… even (dare I say) boring in comparison.  Isi, the main character of the first novel is a princess in disguise who learns the language of the wind and defeats her foes, which is great and all, but Enna… Enna learns the language of fire.

I just loooove the way Shannon Hale deals with the different elements in these books.  Because while the wind is thoughtless and can only speak of the things it’s seen and is easily diverted from its natural way… fire is an altogether different thing, dangerous, hungry, and always, always seductive.

Enna is a fantastically strong character, which she has to be, because the language of fire will devour even the person who sets it free, as we see even from the very beginning of this novel.  Enna is all action and she goes through some serious trials in this book, where she’s struggling to control this enormous gift and not destroy her friends—or herself—in the process.  She’s not perfect, and she doesn’t get everything right at  the first try, but she does everything she can to help her friends and her country on the brink of war.

Personally I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  While The Goose Girl is a Grimm’s fairy tale expanded, Enna is all Hale’s own world, and she’s built up this idea of hidden languages in just a truly gorgeous way.  Enna Burning takes all the stakes in the first novel and kicks them up a notch, too, which I can’t help but love, and the little bit of romance that we get in this is… oh just right up my alley.  I won’t tell you about it, because even the who is a bit of a spoiler, but I’ve been in love with this guy since his brief appearance in The Goose Girl, and to get to see him really develop and grow up in this novel was just a thrill.  Really it’s one of my favorite love stories I’ve read in recent years, and though I’m looking forward to the upcoming Forest Born, I already doubt that it’ll knock Enna out of my top favorite for the series so far.

My rating: A+.  +.  If I can do that. 😉


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