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Forest Born (Books of Bayern)
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2009
When I found out that Shannon Hale would be writing another Book of Bayern, I have to admit that I was a little bit skeptical. So often in the modern entertainment world, it seems like writers, actors, and movie producers make more of the same thing not because they have another story to tell but because they want to make money off of the public.

However, there were two things that convinced me to read this book. First, "Forest Born" is not a sequel. I enjoyed having read the other books (Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and River Secrets) first, but this one has an enitrely different main character. It could stand alone. Second, I love Shannon Hale's first three Books of Bayern. I trust her enough as an author to write for the sake of the story and not for the sake of publicity. The fact that I am twenty years old and still enjoy reading her books for pleasure (which in my mind is one of the main joys of reading), should testify to her writing ability.

All that being said, I bought "Forest Born" and loved it. What made it stand out was not the plot (although the plot was captivating) but the character development. I could understand and relate to Rin more than I ever have to most literary characters. Reading her story was a little like looking into myself.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, whether or not they've read the other three Books of Bayern. Full of excitement and insight, I can't wait to reread it again.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 26, 2009
I love Shannon Hale's writing. I've been a huge fan since Princess Academy. Then came Goose Girl. I snatched each one up as soon as they came out because I couldn't get enough. Not only can she tell a good, original story, but she does it with flowing language and beautiful imagery. Forest Born has that same voice but I can't say that it's my favorite.

Rin is Razo's younger sister, the youngest of the siblings, and as it often happens, she has a hard time figuring out who she is. She tries to shadow her Ma, Razo, and even the trees. Especially the trees, which seem to speak a language she can understand and get lost in. But there is something else about her that is ugly and black and wanting to get out. It's an internal battle and only she can fight it. It's teenage angst told in Bayern style.

As with all of Shannon Hale's characters, I fell in love with this one. I loved Rin's character and I wanted her to find herself but the journey was filled with so much self-loathing and self-pity that the only moments of relief are the scenes with Razo, Isi, Enna, and Dasha. I understand the the journey of self-discovery is a long one and often a difficult one. I didn't have a pleasant adolescence so I get that. And I don't mind dark and twisty stories. But it's difficult to read about someone's inner tortured angst for 300 pages. The action starts to pick up towards the end and that is when Rin begins to make progress. By then, I just wanted to find out how it would end.

I wanted to like this book. I was so excited to hear that another Bayern book was coming out. But like Rin, this book feels like a shadow of the other ones. At first I thought the author was stretching to create another story but when I finished the book, I realized there were parts of the story that had not been completed or explained and she did so here. But something was missing. The writing is still enchanting, the language about the forest was magical but I wasn't spellbound. The other books, I couldn't put down. This one took days to finish because I found it difficult to want to pick it up again.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2009
Rin has had a happy childhood in the Forest of Bayern. But as she grows older, she realizes that she doesn't know who she is, what she is supposed to be--or if she even likes what she might become. To discover herself, she leaves the forest, her beloved trees and even more beloved family, to become a handmaid to Isi, her brother Razo's friend--who also happens to be the Queen of Bayern. War has only just ended, but a new, mysterious threat faces the monarchs. Rin joins Isi, Enna, and Dasha (the three mysterious "fire sisters" who can speak the languages of wind, fire, and water) on a mission to save Bayern and the queen's own son. Rin soon realizes that in order to be truly helpful, she must find her own self (and maybe her own language) along the way.

Shannon Hale is, in my opinion, one of the best contemporary authors, so it means a lot when I say that Forest Born is one of my favorites of her books, and that Rin is my favorite character. Upon beginning the book, I felt a little disappointed with Rin, feeling that her character wasn't as well developed or interesting as Bayern's other heroines--but then I was knocked over with Shannon Hale's ability to use a seeming flaw as a crucial element to the plot. I hate spoilers, so I won't give anything away...but Rin's struggles and victories make her arguably the strongest Hale character yet. For those of you who follow Shannon Hale's work religiously, I felt that Forest Born's plot was not as heart-stopping as Enna Burning's or as well-paced as Princess Academy's, and that the humor was not quite up to the level of River Secrets. (But they're still very good.) On the other hand, her descriptions and metaphors are better than ever, and...the characters! Every book has its own particular strength and Forest Born's is the characters. Rin is inspirational, and you'll be pleased to see the old cast of friends come back into play.
Readers will love Forest Born, but I should add that writers could use it as a lesson in creating a story that can simultaneously follow a protagonist's growth, learning and development as well as an intriguing action plot. These elements, to me, are what made Forest Born one of the most enjoyable stories I've read this year.
(You can read my full review, and more of my reviews at my blog: [...])
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2010
I love Shannon Hale. I love her writing style and I am a fan of the Bayern books (Goose Girl being my favorite). With that said, I had a harder time getting in to this one at first.

Rin is Razo's little sister. I enjoyed reading about her big family. Hale did good at showing the dynamics of a big family (Rin had Nieces and Nephews who were her age and older than her. She had grown big brothers. She was always babysitting for her younger nieces and nephews). The problem I had with Rin was it was hard to get to know who she really was. She was constantly changing herself to fit around the people who she was with. Later you found out why she did this, but for the beginning of the book it was hard to get a good grasp of the main character. You also don't get to know everything when Rin does while a certain scene is happening, so she seemed over dramatic with her problems at first. But once I got all the details of that previous scene, I had an easier time understanding Rin and sympathized with her.

I had fun reading about all the characters in the Bayern world and where their lives had lead them to. I loved reading about the "fire sisters" on this journey and to see Rin gradually become one of them. Rin's powers were different than the other girls, so I got to see a new kind of experience with the powers that go with "the languages". I don't think Rin's story is finished. If Hale does write another story in Rin's point of view, I think I will enjoy it more than this one now that Rin has grown into her own self.

This book is a good read for all the fans of the other Bayern books. If you haven't read any of the Bayern books yet, don't start with this one. Start with Goose Girl so you can get a full look into how wonderful Hale can weave and create this beautiful fantasy world known as Bayern.

3.5 stars!
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 15, 2009
"Forest Born" is an enjoyable YA fantasy novel. It is the fourth book in the series. I'd suggest reading the first books in the series first (because I think they're better and so they aren't spoiled for you after reading this book), but you can understand this one without having read the others.

I enjoyed the underlying humor in the book, but I was confused by why Rin was acting oddly (her reaction seemed blown out of proportion to the events because the author kept some early, critical events deliberately vague). I didn't bond with Rin in the first half because I couldn't understand her. When the author finally revealed what had happened, Rin suddenly became a sympathetic character to me because I knew what a burden she'd been struggling with. But by the time we learned this, Rin was already starting to get things under control and her transition from "struggling" to "figured it out" felt too fast even though I reminded myself it wasn't.

I understand that Rin didn't know what as happening, but I felt frustrated that the author prevented me from knowing at least as much as Rin did. I wished that the full details of the critical events had been revealed back when they occurred so that we could go through her struggle with her, cheering her the whole way.

If you, like me, don't like it when an author hides the reason why a character acts the way she does, I'd suggest that when you reach the end of chapter one (which is 15 page in the ARC...the page numbers might be slightly different in the final version), turn to the full account of what happened with Wilem which starts on page 192 and read the italicized section which lasts until page 201. Then turn to read the italicized section on pages 208 to 210 (the last pages of chapter 17).

The pacing was excellent, but the world-building was only okay. This story didn't seem as deeply thought out as her previous stories. I noticed a number of details that didn't make sense, like Rin putting mud in her ears to protect herself from hearing someone speak in a future confrontation but needing to avoid (and somehow still hearing them in time to hide from) enemies that were searching for her at that moment.

The story was still enjoyable, and the ending was satisfying. There was no romance for Rin, but the other characters got in plenty of kissing. There was no sex and the bad language was of the "he cursed" variety.

Review by Debbie from Genre Reviews (genrereviews. blogspot. com)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2009
Forest Born is both character and plot driven as it follows the story of a young girl who leaves home to search for inner peace. Far from finding peace, she finds herself in the middle of immense political turmoil. From the outer conflict, she is forced to serious introspection which leads her to new strength and resolve.

Easy, enjoyable read and it's great to see the Bayern characters brought back to life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2010
I purchased this book earlier this summer because I loved reading Shannon Hale's previous books in the series. However, this one disappointed me a bit. In Goose Girl, we have the fabulous retelling of a classic fairy tail. Then, Hale continues adding to the world and characters she's created in Enna Burning and River Secrets. While these books are classified as young adult, I still enjoy them even though I've outgrown that age bracket and my mother as also enjoyed their story lines.

With Forest Born, Hale falls completely and utterly into the category of young adult, even going into the lower age brackets of readers. The story line seemed too simple and slightly cheesy and the whole plot line was summed up too neatly. At times, it almost felt like someone writing in Hale's style, rather than Hale writing it. I believe that the reason why the book seemed a bit simpler was the fact that the lead character is younger than Ani or Enna or Razo. Despite it being simpler, it still has parts that make you smile (like reading about Ani's son).

Overall, it was a good book, albeit a bit simple. But, it just doesn't have that flair or that ending that Hale's books normally have had; the ending that makes you hunger for more of her writing. When reading her other books, I never wanted to put them down. There were parts in this book that were like that, but overall I felt fine when it ended.

I would highly recommend this book to younger readers, probably around the 13 year old age bracket, rather than some of the older readers who've enjoyed Hale's books in the past.

And, I do have one more comment that isn't really about the content of the book. Before I even opened the book to read it, I was slightly turned off by it. On the cover, the publishers have posted a review of the book from a fellow author. This author is Stephanie Meyer. Now, while some people like her writing, I do not and seeing her comment on the front of the book was almost enough to make me not want to read it. So, if there are any publishers out there reading this, listen to this comment; pick your lead review carefully!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 28, 2009
Rinna has always lived in the forest with her mother and many brothers. Theirs is a big, loud family, and Rin enjoys the simple forest life, frequently taking comfort in the trees that surround her. But then something changes, and the trees seem to be reminders of self-loathing and hate, and Rin feels disjointed. So when her brother Razo comes home for a brief visit, she returns to the city with him and the Tiran ambassador Dasha to work for the queen. Isi and Enna and Dasha, whom Rin calls the Fire Sisters, and their strange powers impress and excite her, and though Rin feels small and insignificant in comparison, she is drawn to them like a moth to the flame.

But when trouble in the east threatens Isi and the royal family, Rin travels with the Fire Sisters to investigate. There they discover an unexpected and powerful enemy that threatens not just the Fire Sisters and Rin, but the entire nation of Bayern as well, and Rin must learn to face her fears and discover her true strength.

Shannon Hale's novels are always delightful and lovely. They're brimming with magic and strength and love, but also contain elements of danger and powerful villains that keep her stories lively. But always readers read through her books knowing that they will have a satisfactory ending, and they do not care about this knowledge--Hale's novels are just that enthralling. However, in Forest Born, readers will be blown away by the suspense and surprising plot twists that make for a harrowing and gripping read that will make you doubt the outcome of the story.

Rin is a smart, resourceful character, but after her first disappointment in love and the confusion concerning her abilities, she's left uncertain and self-conscious. Throughout the story as she observes and aids the Fire Sisters, she does slowly emerge from her shell and begin to find confidence and understanding in her abilities, which is one of the major themes of the book.

Hale also skillfully builds upon older characters, which is enjoyable as it's always fun to drop in and check on older characters. Their humor and quirks, added to Rin's journey of self discovery, makes Forest Born an exciting, witty, and completely enthralling read. Fans of the Books of Bayern will certainly not be disappointed, and will be happy at the satisfying, but open, ending in hopes for yet another Bayern book to immerse themselves in.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2010
In the past week, I've flown through Shannon Hale's books. I'd never heard of her before picking up "Book of a Thousand Days" and "the Goose Girl" from my local bookstore because I thought they didn't look terrible and I needed something to read on my lunch breaks. Needless to say, while I did start them on my lunch breaks, I ended up finishing them at home! It's been a while since I haven't been satisfied reading a book one half-hour a day. After I finished the first two books I'd bought, I had to have the rest of the Bayern series as soon as possible.

I've loved all of her books so far, each one with very different main characters, but the one that touched me deepest was "Forest Born." Rin's voice was hard for me to understand at first, but the more I read, the more I understood her. While her character growth was slow, it wasn't too slow. It was just right. Rin compares herself to trees throughout the book, and like a tree, she grows slowly. There were quite a few parts in the latter half of the story where I was wiping away tears. Not necessarily tears of sadness, but just tears because Rin was making me feel for her so strongly. Her desperation to be strong really resonated with me.

For me, the best part of "Forest Born" was Rin learning herself, and learning how to be strong. Unlike Isi in "the Goose Girl," who was strong but didn't realize it, Rin actually isn't a strong person. She's spent her whole life trapping her own wants and wishes as far inside herself as she can and trying her best to only be what other people want her to be. I think the most moving part for me is when Rin realizes she's never let anyone know her, and that she really doesn't know herself. I really hope if there are more Books of Bayern, that we get to see Rin again. If we do, I'm sure she'll have learned to be, in her own way, as strong as the three fire sisters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 29, 2012
This is the 4th book in the Bayern series and revolves around Rin, younger sister to Razo. Rin has been fairly content with her life, but when an encounter with a boy ending in a kiss, leaves her worried and disconnects her with her beloved forest, she ventures to the city with her brother. She takes on the role of one of the handmaidens to Queen Isi, and is enamored with the boy prince. When she suspects that one of the other handmaidens has ulterior motives against the prince, she acts to protect him. Rin becomes entangled with the mysterious goings-on in a nearby kingdom and must help when an old adversary of the Queen appears. Rin must learn to trust in her own skills and the balance that she receives from the forest if she is going to be able to help save the people she loves. While it took me a little while to get into the story, the author has done a lovely job in creating a unique addition to the world of Bayern, while giving us a taste of the characters that we loved from the previous stories.
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