A young, orphaned shapeshifter in a world that fears magic must risk everything if she hopes to save her only friend in Elayne Audrey Becker's Forestborn, first in a new fantasy series with a timeless feel.
TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.
Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness―and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.
When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up―and to which she swore never to return.
But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.
Finley’s eyes are glazing over, far too fast, the pupils dilating as if he’s concussed. He shakes his head, holds out a hand, clutches mine when I step close to steady him. “I think—”
“Finley!” I cry, catching him when his knees suddenly give way. I’m dismayed at how easy it is to support his weight, considering he’s only one year younger than me. Or two, or three. It’s all a guess, really. “Fin, talk to me,” I say, my heart flinging itself wildly against my ribcage as I watch his eyes lose focus once more. His hand loosens its grip on mine, and both of us sink to the forest floor.
“Let him go,” I beg, bending over the body gone rigid, the heaving chest, the quivering, waxen skin. Alarm bells are screaming through my head, loud as the clocktower tolling the hour, and with them, the tingling in my core returns. Threads of numbness engulf my limbs. Fur along my back, then feathers all over—my body torn between the urge to hide or to flee, far away from this scene I never saw coming. “Please. Not him, too.”
I ignore the gathering sounds of creaking, groaning wood overhead with a vengeance. Tears are welling in my eyes, but I blink them away and shake my head, refusing to let them fall. Refusing because this day of truth has always been tainted by lies, so what’s one more to add to the tally? In the darkening wood, I set each one before me, all of the lies I reach for when the nightmares, the dirty looks, the hidden scars and endless self-loathing begin to drag me under—that my mother loved me before she left me, that my brother and I are not a curse, that I can be good and selfless and worthy of love in spite of the things I’ve done. I assemble them all, then set one more on the shelf: that my best friend, my only true friend aside from Helos, isn’t dying.
But the trees around me, leaves and branches straining against their holds, limbs pointing to Finley like a circle of swords—the trees all tell a different story.
Excerpted from Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker. Copyright © 2021 by Elayne Audrey Becker. Published by Tor Teen.