Forest Born by Shannon Hale
Read August 18, 2010 – August 21, 2010
Hardcover edition, 389 pages
Published by Bloomsbury, 2009
There is something immensely charming about Shannon Hale’s writing. Settling back into the world of Bayern, Forest Born felt like a whole body sigh as I drifted into the comfortable rhythm of Hale’s folksie language and enchanting fairytale lilt:
Ma had six sons. The eldest was big like his pa, the middle boys were middling. By the time Razo was born, all the family’s largeness must have been used up.
Forest Born follows the story of Rinna, the only girl of seven siblings, and younger sister to one of the most popular members of Bayern’s Own, Razo. Rinna loves the trees and her home in the Forest. But Rinna mistrusts herself, believes herself to be dishonest, bad at heart, and unworthy of Ma and Razo’s love. She even feels abadoned by the trees that were once her sanctuary. Rinna struggles to find herself and establish an identity as she copes with an insidious speaking gift, much different than the elemental-speaking gifts we were introduced to in the previous three Bayern books. Running away from herself and her Forest, Rinna joins Razo in the city of Bayern and sets off on an adenture of discovery with the Fire Sisters–Isi, Enna, and Dasha.
Rinna is a more ambiguous character than previously encountered in The Books of Bayern because she has no sense of who she is yet. Her self-doubts and lack of identity create a barrier between Rinna and the reader. I’m not sure if it was the intense boarding process on my flight to Sacramento, or Rinna’s elusiveness, but I found Forest Born much harder to immerse myself in than the previous novels in the series. However, my efforts were well worth it as Hale has again crafted a fantastic tale.
I love watching the growth of each relationship from novel to novel and Forest Born provides a unique outsider’s perspective of these friendships. It is also obvious that Hale absolutely adores children, and her portrayal of Tusken’s relationship with his mother and the other adults in the book is fantastic. In my opinion, many child/parent or child/caretaker relationships in novels feel forced. Hale brings authenticity to these relationships without making the child overly precocious (a pet peeve of mine), and a sweetness without being cloying.
Perhaps the best part of Forest Born was Rinna’s self-discovery. Although parts of Rinna’s speaking gift were ruined for me by Carol, how Rinna learns of her gifts and how she adapts to their burden is marvelous. There is a wonderful zen moment shared by Rinna and the reader that is equal parts Tai Chi and Matrix, and brings the reader back to the peacefulness of the Forest that Rinna has left behind.
After reading Forest Born I want to go back reread each of the books consecutively. I would love to see how the novels stitch together and compliment one another when read back to back, instead of having three to six month gaps between novels. I would definately recommend Forest Born for fans of the Bayern series.
I did find one other review of Forest Born by Nikki of All About the Words. She brings up very interesting points about morality and I had great fun reading her point of view.