This has got to be one of the best stories I’ve read in a really long time. It wasn’t perfect, but it still really blew me away with its storytelling, its world-building, the intrigue, the romance, and everything else it has to offer. I can’t wait to tell you about this one because despite it being a YA novel, it read very adult and quite extraordinary!
A young, orphaned shapeshifter in a world that fears magic must risk everything if she hopes to save her only friend in Elayne Audrey Becker’s Forestborn, first in a new fantasy series with a timeless feel.
TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE. Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble. When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return. But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.
Rora is a shifter who’s in the employ of the king. When the king’s son (her best friend) becomes ill with a magical disease, she sets out with her brother and the king’s other son to find the cure. While on their journey, they’re also to investigate what’s happening with the kingdom in the North of theirs. Because in this world, magic isn’t liked very much and one of the kings is trying to eradicate its existence from the very map.
While Rora, her brother Helos, and the king’s other son Weslyn travel through the world to find a magical cure, they’re met with some interesting magical creatures, fight some soldiers from the other side, and really see what’s happening with the kingdom in the North. I truly fell in love with this story, its magic, and the characters. Rora was such a relatable character. While I can’t shapeshift and I’m not a spy for the king, I loved that you read every waking thought she has in her brain. It was interesting to see how she thinks and how she plans her moves because when she shifts into the different animals or when she’s changing her face to disguise it, it really helps play out the scenes in your head. I loved that aspect the most.
The woods and nature were definitely a huge component of the book as you read Rora and company journey to find the magical cure. I loved seeing them getting lost in the woods, finding massive lakes, searching through caves, and being transported by magic. It was such an immersive world with all types of magical creatures. I thought it was clever Elayne Audrey Becker made you fall in love with these woods before she shared the bigger political plot taking place.
And the plot itself is such a twist! I loved finding out more about this world and what’s happening in it. Of course, I won’t spoil it for you but it was definitely surprising and one of the bits that really blew me away. I want to read the next book just to find out more on what happens with the bigger plot.
I think the only issue I had was that there were some really inopportune moments to go into backstory. Because you’re reading the book through Rora’s perspective, you read a lot of what Rora’s thinking, especially in the middle of a conversation. I found myself reading this sad backstory about Rora and her brother only to be clueless why someone gave a one-line answer. It turned out the question was a page and a half ago right before Rora went into this story about her life. It wasn’t the worst flaw, but it did still bug me enough to note it in my review.
Overall, this was such an adventure the likes of LOTR. I’m so glad I read it right after The Return of the King because I think I really love long journeys and adventure stories the most. The woods were definitely my favorite part and I can’t wait to return to them in the second book.