Title: Forest of Wonders
Author: Linda Sue Park
Series: Wing and Claw #1
Raffa has always had a gift for botanicals. But when an attempt to save an injured bat leads him to a new discovery, the consequences stretch far wider than he could have imagined. Now Raffa struggles to decide the best way forward, one that allows him to honor his training as an apothecary as well, or one where he could possibly make new discoveries . . .
This is an engaging book whose biggest flaw is that the entire plot is obvious once past a certain point early in the story. Raffa’s talents make him a wildcard, since he can intuit the best way to mix a botanical without knowing ahead of time what will result. He does have training, and works within that, but the scarlet vine he brings home has properties beyond anything he’s worked with before.
But then we have his uncle going to pursue a new research opportunity in the city, a once in a lifetime, too good to be true opportunity Raffa’s parents are less sure about. And from that point until the end not much was a surprise anymore, at least for me. I wish there had been a good reason—or even a bad one—presented for the villain’s motivations (I find it hard to credit the lies, since there’s no evidence of any legitimate use presented, just showmanship and later evil). What ABOUT the rest of the world? Raffa is ignorant of it, of course, but there’s no reason the townsfolk he runs into have to be as well.
I wish Kuma had been a shapeshifting bear the way it almost appeared in the beginning, and not just a girl who partnered a bear in nearly the way Raffa has partnered with Echo. I wish the titular Forest of Wonders had a bigger role in the plot than simply being a place where the vine grows, and that the creatures living in such a magical spot were more than just ordinary. I wish more had been explored with magic in general, and what it is and isn’t, and if people as well as plants might have some kind of power (because despite all the denials, clearly some form of magic is in operation, and any history on how power works would have been nice).
The clear setup for a sequel gives me some hope the series will draw out more complexity from the overall situation. That said, I’m not really that interested in going forward with this. This book was a decent read, just not one that grabbed me. I rate this book Neutral.