Title: Shadows of the Forest
Author: Emma Michaels
Review: The preface to this book was beautiful enticing and heartbreaking in equal measures and there is a high level of mystery and suspense introduced as soon as the rules are mentioned. From the offset the short, direct chapters are really effective at drawing the reader in, we learn of twins Lily and Cole whose family collapsed after their parents’ murder and both are now in hospital after a horrible accident. Lily realises almost immediately that there is something very wrong with the hospital she is residing in. As her memories of the accident clear she realises that the heartbeat in her chest that felt so familiar yet so foreign wasn’t her but that of her brother Cole. Lily really struggles to come to terms with this even going as far to find a way to undo what Cole had done for her. Lily believes herself to be worth less than him because of the way she had been treated by her father. Neither twin had a great upbringing thanks to their abusive father but Cole always protected Lily from the brunt of his rage. Lily has always seen herself as bad and Cole was always the good and she feels he deserved far better than what he got.
As we reach the 1/4 mark in the novel, Lily begins to understand more about the place she is in. The hospital acts almost like a way point between the human world and the spirit world. Most of the staff and patients here are spirits or almost spirits it is very rare for humans like Lily and Cole to end up there. Lily also learns that Willow’s mother may be the only person who can undo what has been done but there isn’t a lot of time for her brother and she is now racing against the clock. A Kitsune named Arro will accompany Lily on her journey as she doesn’t belong in the spirit world and will need someone to guide and help her along the way. Against the advice and warning of Willow and Kaede, Lily lets Arro leads her through the forest despite the fact she doesn’t understand their world but Lily’s belief and determination to save her brother overpowers her fear and she takes the first steps in her very dangerous journey. Lily sparks Arro’s interest greatly especially after the forest accepts her despite the fact she is human although she continues to beg him to help her understand the laws of this strange spirit world.
When Arro and Lily reach the place where he can’t follow due to Usagi’s hatred of him she goes on alone but she meets an elephant spirit who eats the nightmares of children and he walks her through the final part of her journey. This spirit also reminds her what she is fighting for and gives her a small glimmer of hope that her brother is still a part of this world, that he still dreams of her own happiness. Usagi agrees to try and help Lily but there will be a price for her kindness, Lily accepts this without a second thought and it may be something she will live to regret. Baku the elephant spirit she begins to trust less as she feels he is helping Arro, the one spirit Usagi warned her not to help. As we cross the half way point in the novel Baku helps Lily accept her past, her darkest secrets and the things she never allowed herself to believe. He also helps her understand who her parents were before her father became the monster he was and why her mother never gave up on him even in death. After meeting the heart of the forest Lily realises her price will be becoming a spirit and never being able to be with her brother again but to watch him from afar. Before she makes her choice Lily gives a gift, a gift only a human can give and with a simple kiss she releases Arro from his curse. Lily sees the past and pain of others including Kaede, Willow, Arro and Usagi and makes the conscious choice to take Usagi’s place as voice of the forest and grant her one wish to be happy with her family. Although this means she will never be with her brother again she so desperately hope that he will have a long and happy life even without his other half.
Lily and Cole are reunited for a short time but she takes pride and happiness in the fact that she only returned happiness to a very broken family and answers the wishes of their hearts. Lily realises that despite not having Cole with her he would be happy especially with someone like Willow and she also knows she will always have Arro at her side whom she loves in an all-consuming way, he will always be by her side and now all of them are free of their shadows and can go forth from that place and truly live the lives they were destined to. In the final section of this novel, Lily makes one final sacrifice in order to get Cole to leave the forest and continue his life without her, while this choice breaks her heart she has Arro and hart there to comfort her and help her heal once more. Lily learns the truth behind her acceptance into the forest and why she was chosen to replace Usagi and the truth sets her free. In the end Lily watches over her brother and Willow as their lives developed and despite the sacrifice she made Cole always remembered her even naming Willow and his daughter Lisa Lily. He always understood her and now she has completely accepted her fate and is truly happy with Arro by her side but she will always be waiting for the day when she and Cole can be together once more.
This book was just beautiful and devastatingly heartbreaking on so many levels I swear I spent the majority of the book crying my eyes out for a million different reasons. I highly urge every single person to pick this up and read it, let the gentle words open your heart to the exciting world around you. A definite 5* novel.
This book was sent to me for review consideration by YA Bound Book Tours
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