“Growing up in the Forest, Rin always turned to the trees when she needed peace or reassurance, even direction, until the day they seem to reject her. Rin is sure something is wrong with her, something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest, keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all.
When her brother Razo returns to the city after a visit home, Rin accompanies him to the palace in hopes of finding a new sense of herself. But a mysterious threat haunts Bayern, and Rin joins the magical girls she thinks of as the Fire Sisters –Isi, Enna, and Dasha- as they venture into the woods toward the kingdom of Kel... where someone wants them all dead.”
Description taken from book jacket
First off, I want to say that I adore Shannon Hale. She’s a fantastic writer, and follows what I think is the perfect philosophy with YA books- write what you think is a good story, not what’s easily marketable. As a result, she’s produced numerous solid novels that I’d recommend, which includes her previous Books of Bayern. However, all good things must end in order to remain good things and, unfortunately, the Books of Bayern have hit that point.
Forest Born, the fourth in the series, includes enough background information that you could come into the series a stranger and not be terribly confused. Although, it would be easiest to read them in order since the events happen sequentially. This installment follows Rin, who makes a delightfully insecure heroine. She is ‘forest born’, as the title points out, and you (re)discover the world of Bayern along with her as she heads out to work at the castle. There’s intrigue right from the start when Rin suspects a lady in waiting of wanting to kill Prince Tusken and suspicious fires start up at Bayern’s boundary with the neighboring country Kel.
While the characters and humor are great, like in all of Hale’s other books, Forest Born remains plagued by mediocre plot twists. One character pulls a Gandalf, but it isn’t done properly. Instead of having the shocked reaction you’re supposed to, you realize that Hale’s hit the bottom of the idea barrel for the series. As a result, the entire second half of the book has a very forced feel to it. Even though I got attached to Rin and wanted to hear more about her, the plot just wasn’t interesting anymore.
I still love Shannon Hale, but I hope Forest Born is the last in her Bayern series. While it’s a solid read, and much better than the work of other authors, I’m disappointed because it doesn’t measure up to her other books. Hale’s writing itself is absolutely magical- she just needs better storylines to work with.