Forest Born (The Books of Bayern, #4) – Shannon Hale


Source: Goodreads

Rinna Agget has always belonged in the forest. Her family is vast, much like the trees she climbs. Then one day the trees reject her, and Rinna must leave their embrace to search for a new identity in the harsh city. In Bayern’s capital, Rin is known as Razo’s sister, and in her position as waiting woman to Queen Isi, she begins to unravel her own identity for the first time. When disaster strikes, it is Rinna’s wish to stay close to Isi that sends her on a dangerous mission with the girls she thinks of as the fire sisters. They travel deep into the neighboring kingdom of Kel, where someone from the girls’ past waits to seal their doom. Along the way, Rin begins to unravel Isi, Enna, and Dasha’s stories as well as her own, and in doing so might just heal her rift with the forest.


When I read these books as a child, Forest Born had not yet been published, so it wasn’t until this re-read of the series that I had the chance to enjoy it. The final book in Shannon Hale’s The Books of Bayern series highlights a new character, Rin, the younger sister of Razo, whom we followed in the previous book, River SecretsForest Born picks up a few months after the end of River Secrets, but being told from Rin’s point of view makes this story nearly a stand-alone. While you don’t have to read the first three books to understand what’s going on, you definitely won’t get the full effect of everything that happens unless you’ve read them.

I’ve read a lot of reviews for this book in particular that say it doesn’t mesh with the rest of series, doesn’t make sense, etc. etc. I’m here to tell you that’s a lot of rot. This book adds so immensely to my love for this series. I absolutely adored the first book, The Goose Girl, and while the war seemed to drag on forever through Enna Burning and lingered in River Secrets, I still enjoyed them. Forest Born had the same feel and energy as the first volume and really brought me back to why I loved this series so much as a child.

Rinna fits in…until she doesn’t. She spends much of the book feeling like an outcast, trying to be invisible, trying not to hate herself. These are all things that people can particularly identify with. Whenever Rin discovers something and gains one bit of confidence, the reader does as well. The story is a lesson in self-love and understanding while showcasing some of the most interesting gifts we’ve seen in The Books of Bayern. We still see our favorite characters: Isi and Geric, Enna and Finn, Razo and Dasha, Conrad, and baby Tusken; but we get the chance to see them all through Rinna’s fresh eyes that know nothing of wars or magic or betrayal. It was quite enchanting, and I had a hard time putting it down.

This particular cover was released in 2011 as a special edition to match the original three covers. The book was originally released in 2009 along with new covers for the whole series, each featuring a heroine on the cover. While I love the trend of putting characters on covers, it broke my heart not to be able to complete my collection of the beautiful original covers, which resemble antique paintings. When I was getting ready to start my re-read, I found this special edition cover and ordered it immediately, so now my collection is complete and I can enjoy the books for years to come without looking at my bookshelf and grumbling because the covers don’t match.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars



Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Goose Girl
Book #2 – Enna Burning
Book #3 – River Secrets

Enna Burning (The Books of Bayern, #2) – Shannon Hale


Source: Goodreads

Enna has returned to the forest after settling her best friend Isi into her new life as Princess of Bayern. Everything is easing into a new normal, one where Enna and her brother Leifer run the family farm after their mother’s death until Leifer comes home one night with a terrible secret: the language of fire. Whispers of invasion by the nearby kingdom of Tira become actual battles, and Leifer’s secret could mean the difference between Bayern winning the war or the end of everything.


Although I wanted to pick this book up immediately after re-reading The Goose Girl back in March (I read the whole series in middle school), I had a lot of other books on my list to get through. When I finally got to this one, I wasn’t in as much of a mood to read it as I had been, and the beginning felt slow because of it. I brought it on vacation with me over Independence Day weekend and finally broke through to the rest of the story, which was quite enjoyable.

If The Goose Girl focused on identity than Enna Burning focuses on trust. Enna and Isi are 17 and 18 now, and rapidly growing up and gaining responsibilities that seem increasingly impossible to complete. Enna and Leifer’s secret eats at them incessantly, and Isi has multiple problems of her own, the least of which is trying to support her new husband as their country heads into its first war in decades.

As the sophomore book in the series, the plot is much more straightforward, focusing almost entirely on the war, and the plot has a clear way of ending. Hale’s world building is quiet, yet extensive. We learn about Tira through its soldiers’ words, and we learn more of Bayern’s war-torn history. The character development continues to be superb. A worthy follow-up to The Goose Girl and a good set up to push the story past being just a fairytale retelling.

I definitely adored the first book, and I loved this volume as well. I look forward to re-reading River Secrets shortly.


HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars


Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Goose Girl
Book #3 – River Secrets (Review Available 7/25)
Book #4 – Forest Born (Review Available 8/15)

The Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern, #1) – Shannon Hale


Source: Goodreads

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee was the crown princess of Kildenree, a small kingdom surrounded by mountains and forests that protect it from would-be invaders. When she is traded in marriage to a prince she’s never met in a country she’s never been to, Ani sets off on a perilous journey to save not only herself but also this new kingdom she must call home.


I picked this book up years ago when I was on a fairytale retellings kick. It’s originally based on the Grimm’s Fairytale of the same name, but Shannon Hale flies the narrative in an entirely new direction. This book blew me away the first time I read it as an 11 or 12-year-old, and it continues to be magical today.

Essentially, Ani has her identity stolen and has to take a job as a goose girl in order to survive. The girl who steals her identity still scares me as an almost 25-year-old, because her drive, fury, and wiliness are at an all-time high simply because she believes that she deserves what Ani has. This is a very real thing that some people experience. Some people in the real world can actually be that insane. There’s no logical arguing with a person like that. It’s just downright terrifying.

Aside from crazy pants the identity thief, this book is chock full of well developed, complicated, intricate characters. The writing is superb, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this book alone made Shannon Hale one of my all-time favorite authors. I find it rare in juvenile and teen fiction for characters to be in as much danger as those in The Goose Girl without having an obvious way out. Usually, the reader knows the identity of the would-be rescuer before the characters do, but in this case, that idea is false.

There isn’t much detail I can go into without ruining parts of the story, so I will just leave you with my word that it’s very very very good and totally worth it to drop what you’re doing and read this. The minimal romance means that it can appeal to just about everyone who likes a good adventure.


Curio Street Reads Rating: 5 Stars