Rin is sure that something is wrong with her...something really bad. Something that is keeping her from feeling at home in the Forest homestead where she's lived all her life. Something that is keeping her from trusting herself with anyone at all. When her brother Razo returns from the city for a visit, she accompanies him to the palace, hoping that she can find peace away from home. But war has come to Bayern again, and Rin is compelled to join the queen and her closest allies--magical girls Rin thinks of as the Fire Sisters--as they venture into the Forest toward Kel, the land where someone seems to want them all dead. Many beloved Bayern characters reappear in this story, but it is Rin's own journey of discovering how to balance the good and the bad in herself that drives this compelling adventure.
Character Development: 10/10
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
Total Score: 70/70
Cussing: Limited, if any.
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Some scenes where drunk people make appearances.
Sexual Content: A very teensy weensy little bit thrown into some conversations, but otherwise nothing at all.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Some graphic descriptions of war and torture.
Okay, this is Shannon Hale--we all knew it would be fantastic. But even in my wildest dreams did I dare hope that it would be THAT fantastic!! Whoa! Rin was an unknown before this; she had been mentioned, but only briefly, and we really knew nothing at all about her. She turned out to be completely fascinating. Her story is engrossing, beautiful, and emotionally intense.
Rin's focused, strong-but-quiet voice truly made the book for me. Her disciplined, closed way of being was so different from Isi's or Enna's or Razo's, and it was captivating. The Forest, which was important but not a priority in the other books, now comes to the foreground, and it is presented in a different light, like everything else. Through Rin's eyes, the world is a large and alien place, and in that respect it was so easy to relate to her, to become her.
A welcome aspect of the book, like seeing an old friend after years apart, was the reappearance of the main characters from the last books. It was comforting, thrilling, and wonderful to see them again. And in such a rich and brilliant setting... Shannon Hale's writing is the very essence of what fairy tale has evolved into--adventure, romance, magic. Who could ask for a better story?