Shannon Hale, Forest Born

Bloomsbury, 2010, ISBN 978-1408808610

This is the fourth book in Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern fantasy series, but can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone title. Rin, the protagonist, is the youngest child in a Forest family, and full of insecurities. Trees have always given her comfort, but as she starts to question her place in a tight-knit community and her frightening powers over others, she stops receiving the reassurance from them that she longs for. To escape her inner turmoil, she leaves the Forest, and travels to the city, where she becomes a lady in waiting to Isi, the queen, an inspiring young woman with extraordinary powers of her own. When Bayern comes under threat, Rin, Isi and Isi’s closest friends find themselves embroiled in desperate battles to save it from danger. Their magic is strong, but at times not a match for that of their enemies. In the confusion of war, introspective Rin struggles with what she learns about herself. With peace restored, eventually she discovers that it might be possible to harness her powers for good: that she need not be the force for evil she so fears.

At nearly 400 pages Forest Born demands stamina, but its ambitious inter-play of supernatural powers, action-packed adventure, compelling characters, in particular the courageous band of girls, and adolescent anguish will keep fantasy-loving key stage 3 girls gripped. (The pink cover with its squirrels and rabbits will most certainly deter male readers.)