Published by Spencer Hill Press on September 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, Young Adult
Sexual Content: N/A
Reviewed by: Megan
Raised by an old fortune-teller within the dark veil of the Bavarian Black Forest, Rune has learned two valuable lessons: only take from the forest that which you can use, and never, never look anyone in the eye in the village. For something terrible happened in the forest long ago... and now, the whispers of a long-dead mother with a vengeful secret have come haunting.
Forced to flee all she has ever known, Rune soon learns of a legacy she is bound to--one that is drenched in fear, witchcraft and murder--a birthright that stretches beyond the grave to the trees where Rune is no longer safe.
When a wicked bishop starts a witch hunt in Bavaria, orphan Rune finds herself targeted - but unlike most of the so-called witches caught in the net of hysteria, Rune really does have powers, and a reason to fear for her life. She also has an ally in the son of the local magistrate (called the Electorate), after he nearly tramples her with his horse and finds himself 'bewitched.' What follows in FOREST OF WHISPERS by Jennifer Murgia is a young adult romance, but, more importantly, a story about confronting the past, accepting where you come from, and embracing your strength.
The book got off to a slow start for me, and Rune's voice seemed unsteady - sometimes sounding older than her sixteen years, sometimes younger. But as the world outside of the cottage in the woods was built, I was drawn deeper into the story. The son of the Electorate, Laurentz, added another dimension to the book, though some aspects of his tragic backstory felt shoe-horned in, used to form a bond with Rune and then forgotten. The switch between their point of views largely works, minus some abrupt transitions.
The strongest scenes in the novel are the scenes of suffering - when Rune loses the only mother she has ever known, and when she's sent to Drudenhaus, the witch prison, and tortured for a confession. She draws on her inner strength, and the reader knows despite how gentle and delicate she seems, she's a survivor. The magic of this book is pretty vague - no real spells or elements, no rules. Ordinarily I'd find that frustrating, but in many ways FOREST OF WHISPERS is an extended fairy tale wherein we're told there's magic, and that's just the way it is. Try not to think about the 'how' of it too hard, or risk breaking the spell.Series Titles:
- If you're looking for books about orphans with magic powers and an important destiny, try Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
- If you're looking historical fantasy with romance try The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston.