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Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker. Reviewed by Lydia B.
Forestborn is beyond inventive and beautiful.
I knew I would like this book from the moment I saw it, but after reading it, I was blown away! First of all, the world-building is amazing. From rival kingdoms to magical forests, Becker makes her world both intricate and easy to follow, a must in standalone fantasy books. The forest is especially interesting, as are the animals and the way magic manifests there. There are entirely new takes on magic everywhere in this novel, especially in the main characters themselves! Rora and her brother Helos are both main characters and shapeshifters. I loved how Elayne Audrey Becker used clear limits in their abilities to create impressive but not indestructible powers in these two. There was also so much symbolism in the forms the characters took and why, which I loved just as much.
Let’s talk more about the characters! Usually I’m a fan of side characters and not main characters, but this cast was entirely lovable. We have Rora, a shifter concerned she’s overly selfish but concerned for her friend, Helos, shifter and brother to Rora, and Weslyn, the love interest and older brother of Prince Finley. Finley especially is important because the others have to venture into magical danger to find a cure for the magic plague that he’s contracted which will kill him soon without a legendary cure. Every one of these characters is full of depth and emotion. I especially love the romances in this book, even though they’re absolutely the death of me now.
Basically, Forestborn is a work of art. I’d recommend it to fans of Among the Beasts and Briars and maybe Onyx & Ivory too (haven’t read O&I in a while but from what I remember they’re somewhat similar). This is easily one of my favorite reads of 2021 and I’m so glad to have been able to read it!
A Thousand Steps into Night by Traci Chee. Reviewed by Lydia B.
For a book about a girl turning into a malevolence demon, this book is surprisingly fun. This is the story of Miuko, a girl cursed to become a demon unless her human soul can prevail and she can kill the demon prince following her before she fully turns. This book is really told in the style of a fairy tale, which I really love. It reads normally, but the plot structure is like you’re reading a myth, which is so fun. There are also so many interesting characters to observe, between humans Miuko scares or spirits she enlists. My favorites were Senara and Geiki (obviously) but everyone in this story is someone worth reading about. Geiki’s natural charisma really humanizes Miuko even more than before in making her more lighthearted during a hard situation.
The world itself is done so well. I did think it was tiresome to have such a detailed world that you needed footnotes to say what everything was, and I still do, but it thins out after a while to be more manageable. I thought that while the footnotes were cumbersome, it was overall very readable since most things were recurring and not entirely new. Given that Miuko herself doesn’t know everything about the hierarchy of spirits or how on earth she can undo her curse, it’s easy to learn with her.
In terms of the plot, I did think there were a few too many twists and turns. It wasn’t too many for the book itself, just a lot to keep up with. There was a segment of the book that was entirely unexpected and while it did make everything make sense a bit more, it also delayed the climax of the novel by a lot. This was really the only thing that bothered me though, and as I just said, it was extremely plot-relevant.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this to fans of dark fantasy with detailed world-building. Although I personally would’ve gotten fed up with the sexism and exclusion and just became a demon, I enjoyed reading about Miuko’s journey and every part of the book.