Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Word Rating: Thumbs up
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With me, for fantasy, there is usually a love or hate relationship. In the case of Forest of Whispers, it was a lot like love. The novel follows two characters, Rune (which, for the record, is an awesome name) and Laurentz, in old-timey fantasy Bavaria. While the realm was new to me, the concept of a teenage girl with a dead mother having to run away from everything was not. Also, based off the blurb and the introduction of Laurentz, I swore I knew exactly how this book would go, regardless of the author or realm.
However, I was pleasantly surprised that almost none of my predictions came true (seriously, I'm usually pretty good at guessing what'll happen in a book, so when an author can completely blindside me with a plot twist, I get really impressed). When building a fantasy realm, I find that not a lot of authors strike the right balance between description and plot. However, in this case, that did not stand to be true, as Jennifer Murgia blew me away with her ability to transform Bavaria into an interesting place for me. Not to mention, her set up of the witch hunt and the run away child was both unique and interesting, despite the fact that the run away child trope exists almost everywhere.
Let us talk a little bit about Rune and Laurentz - oh man, there better be some hard romance in the books to come. I feel like it has been so long since I read the first book in a series and not had romance thrown in my face 17 pages into the fantasy novel. The romance here is slow building, and I know that once this book is released and people start swarming the shelves for it, everyone is going to be on the edge of their seats for the next book waiting to see what goes on with Rune and Laurentz. Slow building, subtle romance is hard to come by, and I think Jennifer Murgia pulled it off perfectly. I feel like, in the case of this story, leaving the characters to grow on their own and not forcing them into a rapid fire love story was so refreshing. The only issue I really had with these two characters is that the writing of their PoVs was SO SIMILAR. I feel as though they weren't completely provided their own unique voices (well, Rune is presented first really so to me it was her voice that was unique, not Laurentz's), and that took away from the story a little bit. Also, there was only really one Laurentz chapter for like every ten Rune chapters, so I kind of pretended it was all Rune (I feel like this author should maybe stick to one PoV at a time).
But can I just rave about the plot again: I don't even want to say anything about it other than the words "awesome" and "fantasy" and "wow plot twist" because that is all you need to know to know that I cannot divulge any more information about this book. Also, the characters: while I feel like Laurentz's PoV wasn't really presented in a unique light, I did really like how Murgia wrote Rune's chapters. I feel like she perfectly captured the fear of the situation without overplaying it, which almost never happens in this kind of book about a run away, so I'm impressed. Rune is honestly really cool because she always sticks to her moral guns, and doesn't shake on those decisions, and I loved having her as a protagonist because she was so strong, despite the air of fear. Also, these characters GROW SO MUCH -- if you guys have read any of my other reviews, you know how obsessed I am with character development being done well. If I don't like how a protagonist progresses, the book starts out with a 2.5 star rating for me, and as you can tell by that line alone, Murgia does an awesome job.
When I picked up this book at BEA 2014, I got it as a signed ARC from Jennifer Murgia, and I'd just like to say thanks for being super cool in person and for a great book! I seriously cannot wait to get hold of the next book and find out what happens to Rune and Laurentz.
Which of your favorite authors are especially good at slow building romances?
Let us know in the comments!