Forest of Wonders
by Park, Linda Sue; Madsen, James (ILT)






When Raffa makes a cure from a rare crimson vine he finds deep in the forbidden forest, the bat he saves transforms into something much more.





Raffa is a gifted apothecary who uses his synesthesia-inflected intuition to make the best poultices and tonics. When an injured bat flies in his window, he's determined to prove himself to his parents, so he and his cousin, Garith, seek out a legendary healing scarlet vine. When he uses it on the bat, he discovers an unexpected consequence: his bat can talk! Meanwhile, Raffa's uncle is summoned to work in the fancy city apothecary, and he and Garith move away. Raffa sneaks out to visit them, and once there, he's wowed by their fancy new digs, though the sheen dulls when he learns about their troubling secret project. Though most of the pivotal events of Park's series opener occur toward the end, the world building and rich characters, not to mention a bevy of comical talking animals, will lure in middle-grade fantasy fans, and the gentle message of conservation and kindness to all creatures will resonate with young animal lovers. A cliff-hanger ending leaves plenty to cover in the forthcoming follow-up. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.





After discovering a vine with powerful properties in the protected Forest of Wonders, 12-year-old Raffa journeys to Obsidia's capital, where he uncovers a sinister government plan to use botanicals to endanger and enslave animals. Raised to be an apothecary like his parents and uncle, Raffa's something of a prodigy. Despite Raffa's "keen instinct for apothecary," though, his father treats him like an apprentice. When Raffa cures an injured bat with a remedy created from a mysterious red vine, the bat is suddenly able to speak. Subsequent work with the vine triggers Raffa's sudden departure to Gilden to warn his uncle and cousin of the plant's potential dangers. In Gilden, Raffa betrays his father's teaching by using apothecary for "his own ends rather than for healing." Reunited with his uncle and cousin, Raffa's eagerness to participate in their groundbreaking work evaporates when he realizes his uncle's involved in horrific experiments with animals. The measured pace builds to a cliffhanging climax as Raffa balances family loyalties, compelling ethical dilemmas, and his role as an apothecary, all at a level completely accessible to the audience. Echo the bat is a particular delight, and among Raffa's new friends in Gilden are dark-skinned Kuma and working-class Trixin. Final art not seen. With its engaging hero, talking animals, arcane magic, moral issues, and unresolved plot, this first of a proposed trilogy promises more exciting forest wonders. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2015 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.






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