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.
A magical curse is sweeping the land, effecting only those who don’t have access to magic within them. Rora, a shapeshifer, is already investigating the illness when her best friend and the Royal Prince, Finley, becomes infected himself. Determined to save him, Rora, Helos her brother and Weslyn Finley’s older brother, set off on a dangerous treck into the wilds to bring back the one thing that can save him, Stardust. But there are things in the ancient forest that not even Rora was expecting and before long it’s not only Finley’s life that’s in danger but all of the continent. Magical beings are being hunted, and once Rora finds out the reason why, her life and that of those around her will be forever changed.
Forestborn is told solely from Rora’s POV and it made for an intriguing and emotional read. Rora doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. After being abandoned by her mother and seeing her father killed in front of them as children Rora and Helos spent a long time in the wilderness, foraging for food and desperately trying to stay alive. Now they live in a Kingdom where being magical isn’t always a good thing. Rora spies for the King, using her shifter ability to get into places that no one else can, and while she enjoys her job, she longs for somewhere where she feels truly at home, where she isn’t wanted solely for what she can do, but for who she is. She’s strong, intelligent and incredibly brave for someone who has been through what she has, but she’s also far too willing to sacrifice herself for those she loves and I just desperately wanted her to realise that she is as worthy of living as those she tries to protect.
She spends the majority of the book with her brother Helos, a fellow shifter who isn’t in the King’s employ and is significantly more at home around non magical people than Rora, and Prince Weslyn, the older brother of Finley, Rora’s best friend, who has always been standoffish with her, never really giving her the time of the day and constantly referring to her as ‘shifter’ instead of her name. It was interesting seeing the three of them on their journey together, but especially seeing the difference in how Rora acts with them both. Becker treats us to some brilliant character interactions, and uses how Rora and Helos are treated by humans as a way to ensure we empathise with them throughout the story. But some of my favourite interactions were between Helos and Rora, seeing their sibling dynamic, how they both want to protect each other but go about it in vastly different ways.
The magic system was incredibly well built and never remotely info dumpy. As we follow our characters on their journey, we learn more about the magic, how it came to be, why people fear it, as well as all the different types of magical creatures there are. As well as the fantasy elements, we get treated to quite a bit of political intrigue from the warring kingdoms, all on differing sides of the magical battle, and I love how these elements wove so seamlessly with the magical parts of the story. We know something is going on with the magic, something is causing this curse, but it’s not until we find out what that all the pieces of the story, all the little hints the author left start fitting together.
Forestborn has the slowest enemies to lovers romance and I adored it. Though it doesn’t get a whole heap of page time, the author makes sure she drops enough hints, gives us enough scenes and interactions that we can’t get help but get invested. Seeing them at the start, their relationship neither willing to trust the other and then, through their journey, learning more about each other, seeing sides they didn’t know existed and gradually learning that not everything was as it seemed. I plays a small part in the overall story, but I loved their interactions and can’t wait to see what happens with them in book two.
If you like your YA fantasy filled with intriguing characters, brilliant world building, a unique magic system and romance, then make sure you pick this up. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book when it releases later this year.