FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park
ABOUT THE BOOK
Raffa Santana has always loved the mysterious Forest of Wonders. For a gifted young apothecary like him, every leaf has the potential to unleash a kind of magic. If only Raffa's cautious father would allow him to experiment freely, Raffa knows he could discover miracles.
When an injured bat crashes into Raffa's life, he invents a cure from a rare crimson vine that he finds deep in the forest. The powers of the vine are stronger than Raffa could have imagined. His remedy saves the animal but also transforms it into something much more than an ordinary bat, with far-reaching consequences. Raffa's experiments lead him away from home to the forbidding city of Gilden, where troubling discoveries make him question who he can trust . . . and whether exciting botanical inventions, including his own, might actually threaten the very creatures of the forest he wants to protect.
This enchanting new series from Linda Sue Park, recipient of the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard, richly explores the links between magic and botany, family and duty, environment and home.
Linda Sue Park is one of my favorite authors, so I knew I needed to read this as soon as I heard about it. While Park isn't known for writing fantasy, I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed at all. In fact, I enjoyed the book very much. Raffa is training with his mother and father to be an apothecary. And he seems to have a knack for it, he can in fact feel when he's gotten the portions right. But his father doesn't believe in intuition and is stern and controlling which irritates Raffa. Things start to change however when Raffa rescues an injured bat and he is able to create a healing poultice and medicine using an unusual crimson vine from the Forest of Wonders. But when the medicine makes it so the bat can talk it becomes clear that this vine has some rather unusual properties.
When Raffa's uncle and cousin leave to go to the city, Raffa wants to go with them but his parents refuse. But after working with the vine and discovering how dangerous it is, Raffa feels like he has to warn his cousin and uncle. But after arriving in Gilden, he discovers that something fishy is going on involving animal experimentation and he has to decide if he is willing to go along with it or stand up against it. He also meets a girl who has a special relationship with an animal just as he does with Echo, the bat.
Park has created an enchanting world with its own rules and morals. Her characters are fleshed out well and easy to root for, especially Raffa and Echo. The bat provides some humor that lightens the story a bit. The moral conflict that Raffa faces, especially concerning his uncle adds some depth and makes for a great theme. There is a lot here both for entertainment purposes and teaching/thinking purposes. I am eager to get my hands on the second and third books.