This review was written for YA Books Central and is being published here with permission.
I received this book via YA Book Central. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker
Series: Forestborn #1
Published by Tor Teen on 2021-08-31
Length: 368 pages
Reviewing ARC from YA Book Central
Reading Challenges: 2021 New Release Challenge, COYER 2021
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.
Forestborn by debut author Elayne Audrey Becker is a fantastical tale that will sweep readers into a land where magic is reawakening and war looms. Rora is a shifter, born in the wilds of the Vale, an orphan who has made a home working as a spy for the king in Telyan, the middle kingdom of Alemara. When the youngest prince is afflicted with the Fallow Throes, an unknown magical disease that is infecting those with no magic, Rora is tasked with returning to the Vale to find stardust, the only hope of saving her friend. Traveling with her and her brother is the prince’s stern older brother. Old alliances will be tested and new ones forged as the quest tests the limits of their minds and bodies.
I simply adored this book! There is so much to unpack here. Rora is a fantastic narrator for our story. Told entirely from her perspective, the reader gets a glimpse at not only her current experiences, but the past that shapes her view of them. As a shifter, Rora has faced discrimination simply for being born with magic. She’s been called a monster and worse by those that fear the Prediction (more on that in a moment), yet she’s always faced it head on with her brother. Helos lends her strength and courage when she has none. I found Rora fascinating and loved her character’s arc throughout the story. So much happens to her, and she grows from it.
Helos is a tough one. Seen through Rora’s eyes, I wanted to love him. But to the reader looking in, it is clear that Rora sees him through rose colored glasses. He is broken, and he isn’t as selfless as she thinks he is. He is perfectly flawed, and Rora’s realization of that is heartbreaking and a turning point for her.
Then there is Weslyn, the elder prince. Rora describes him as an oak, steady and always there. I found this to be true. Weslyn is steadfast and a quiet observer. He studies his surroundings and the people he encounters and is not quick to pass judgment. Despite his and Rora’s differences, the two are quite alike.
The youngest prince’s illness becomes the catalyst for the plot. Building slowly, introducing the key characters and building the world around them, I was completely immersed. The beautiful and stunning imagery of the landscape and animals they encounter on their journey come to life on the pages, not to mention the action and danger that threatens at every turn. I cannot wait to return to this world in the sequel.
Final Thought: With an intricately built world, fully fleshed out characters, and magical prose to match, Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker is an instant classic and deserving of space on every fantasy-lover’s shelf.