Okay, so I just realized that I have apparently been on quite the Shannon Hale reading kick lately! She just put out so many great books that I hadn't yet had a chance to read and they were just what I was in the mood for...
by Shannon Hale
Books of Bayern, book three
Razo has never been anything but ordinary. He’s not very fast, or tall, or strong, so when he’s invited to join an elite mission escorting the ambassador into Tira, Bayern’s great enemy, he’s sure it’s only out of pity. But when they arrive in the strange southern country, it is Razo who finds the first dead body. As they try to learn more from the Tirans about the ever increasing murders, Razo is the only Bayern soldier able to befriend both the high and low born, including the beautiful Lady Dasha. And as Razo finds allies among the Tirans, he realizes that it may be up to him to get the Bayern army safely home again. (description from Amazon.com)
Can I just start out saying that I love Razo? I know each book in the series technically has its own main characters and that Razo just plays a minor (though usually somewhat essential) part in the other books, but he's such a strong, unique, and well, FUN, character that he seemed to sort of hijack the whole series. I was SO glad when I realized that he had his own book!
I love that Razo's so sort of unaware of how truly awesome he is until the right person comes along to point it out to him. He needed Dasha to help him gain self confidence and through his faith in himself, he found love, happiness, and helped to save his kingdom...once again!
I also loved that Isi and Enna's relationship continued to grow and evolve, and expanded when they finally came to accept someone else who had a similar, yet different gift that they needed assistance controlling. Each of the girls became even more confident in her abilities and place in the world. These characters make great, realistic (yes, even with Enna's temper!) role models for young readers.
by Shannon Hale
Books of Bayern, book four
Rin has always been a quiet, helpful girl, but a secret has been eating away at her, and the solace Rin once could find among the tall trees surrounding her forest home has vanished. When she leaves home to join her older brother in the city, she finds intriguing answers to her questions, an adventure she doesn't expect, and a sense of self she never thought she would find. (description from Amazon.com)
Happily, I discovered that the final book in the series featured Razo's younger sister, Rin. Rin was a fabulous character...especially in the way that she grew through the book. Rin goes on quite the journey, both physically and emotionally. She sees new aspects of the world that she never knew existed and she begins to truly find her own place within the great wide world.
While this book didn't have the romance that the previous novels did, I really loved the fact that Hale chose to have Rin stay true to only herself at the book's conclusion. Rin had too much still to learn about herself before she'd be really ready to find and embrace love. This book felt the most "real" out of all of them, and while I ADORED the folk tale-y feel of the others, this one really hit my heart hard. I wished I could reach right into the book and give Rin a hug...to help her heal and feel less alone...
What a stellar ending to the series. These four are books I will definitely reread someday.
(Books one and two are The Goose Girl and Enna Burning, respectively)
Full disclosure: Audio books borrowed from my Library, Books purchased for my Nook