ARC Review – Wildbound

Hello, everyone! I’m slowly but surely catching up on my backlog of ARCs. Today I’m reviewing the conclusion of the Forestborn duology, Wildbound by Elayne Audrey Becker.

The thrilling follow-up to Elayne Audrey Becker’s debut YA epic fantasy, Forestborn, full of forest magic and a kingdom on the brink of war.

With the assassination of Telyan’s king, the time for peace has passed.

Determined to make up for his failure to procure the stardust, Helos finds work as a healer at Fendolyn’s Keep, the military garrison to which Telyan’s exiled royals–and half its civilians–have fled. Racing against the Fallow Throes’ ticking clock, he endeavors to repair his relationship with Prince Finley and fight off the gathering shadows in his head, as the base around him prepares for war.

Half a continent away, his sister Rora is doing everything she can to reawaken the land and end Eradain’s slaughter of magical beings. Still reeling from the revelation that Eradain’s violent monarch is her half-brother, she journeys to the kingdom determined to infiltrate his court in disguise–and finds the seeds of rebellion are already stirring.

With a magical illness running rampant and the continent arming for battle, the three realms’ long-feared destruction seems inevitable. But the two shifters they believed would bring about Alemara’s ruin may in fact hold the key to its survival.

***Thank you to Tor Teen for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I enjoyed the first book of this duology and expected to like this one too. I did not, however, anticipate how much I would LOVE it. It took me a while to warm up to the first book and its protagonist, Rora, but I was instantly absorbed by this one. The dual POV was perfect for this story because it allowed a window into both sides of the war and created the opportunity to get to know some characters much better, primarily Fin and Helos.

The plot moved forward at a brisk pace with plenty of action. This story picks up immediately after the heartbreaking revelations at the end of the first book. Rora has decided to take the fight to Eradain by attacking the prison where they torture magical creatures and infiltrating their royal court as a spy. It was a thrilling journey to follow and provided a glimpse into the heart of the enemy kingdom. It also continued Rora’s growth in meaningful ways, where she continued to strengthen her belief in her own ability and learned to let other people into her life. Helos and Wes, on the other hand, were left trying to find what happened to the people of Telyan before pivoting to preparation for the oncoming war. The ensuing battles were harrowing and left me on the edge of my seat hoping the characters would make it out the other side. There were some parts of the plot that made me scratch my head at why certain things came a bit too easily, but, overall, it was a really enjoyable story.

I loved that Fin and Helos were at the heart of this story. Their struggles brought me to tears a couple times, and I desperately wanted them to survive the mayhem and get their happily ever after. Fin’s battle with chronic illness reminded me so much of my own fight with cancer, and his thoughts about living with his illness and its ongoing restrictions reflected my own in many ways. I appreciate the author giving life to that experience with such a memorable and lovable character. Helos started this journey as a healer and a romantic and discovered that a fighter also lived within himself. He was constantly putting the needs of others before himself, even as he struggled with severe PTSD and attempted to stuff down all of his emotions. It was devastating to watch him become more and more unhinged as the story unfolded, but he eventually learned the importance of facing your past and relying on others to help shoulder the burden of it.

The story incorporated several important themes. Unsurprisingly, environmentalism and the importance of preserving nature and protecting the earth from harm by humans were front and center. I enjoyed how this theme was portrayed using the magic and all the different magical creatures, and those aspects are some of the things I really loved most about this book. The story also highlighted the importance of accepting those who are different from us and the strength that comes from diversity and coming together in unity despite our differences. Finally, the threat of widespread fear, inflamed by half-truths and incendiary rhetoric by those seeking power, as a driving force of fascism was addressed in the character of Jol and his ceaseless march to power. He used people’s fear of magic in his bid to take control of everything, and in doing so, turned people against the very thing that could save them.

Overall, this was a thrilling conclusion that had me on the edge of me seat when it wasn’t making me a blubbering mess. I cannot recommend this duology enough if you enjoy YA fantasy. It is definitely special. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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