3.5 for now. I loved sections, but other parts seemed repetitive.
This fourth installment in The Books of Bayern,
started by Hale's splendid retelling of classic fairytale The Goose Girl
, focuses on Rinna, Razo's little sister. Rinna-girl is very close to her Ma and Razo, her favorite brother. But there is something wrong with Rinna, something so dark and venomous that she never talks about it, fearing that to explain her brokenness, her wrongness
, will strip her of the love she is so desperate to deserve. She also has a strange connection to trees. Things only get worse and worse for Rinna. She stays in the shadows, always silent and hidden, mirroring other people, afraid to speak and let the poison out. She fears herself and thus tries to never even be herself, rather taking on the personalities and mannerisms of others. She most often patterns herself as her mother, but she mimics others as well. She also can tell when a person is lying or telling the truth, can see their desires and their weaknesses.
Rinna is angry and hurt, confused and terrified. She is lost and floundering desperately for help, but scared to even ask for it. So when Razo and Dasha come for a visit, despite Rinna's hostility toward Dasha, whom she sees as competition for her brother's attention and affection, she accompanies them back to the palace. She knows something is wrong and until she can fix it, she cannot stay at home. Even though it pains her Ma to let her go and Rinna is hurt by having to go, she promises she will be back as soon as she can.
At the palace, Rinna becomes a lady-in-waiting, then the nursemary for Tusken, Queen Isi and King Geric's son. Before long, Rinna realizes that Tusken is in danger and then Geric is injured by fire-speakers, and then things start moving. Isi, Enna, and Dasha set off to meet up with Geric and determine a course of action. The fire sisters, as Rinna has come to think of the trio of gifted girls, set out to find out who is setting fires and put an end to them, and Rinna tags along, feeling that she needs to do so. Along the way, she finally understands what it is that the fire sisters can do and Isi explains what she knows of the nature, animal and people-speaking gifts. Rinna explains that she might have tree-speaking. And Enna and the others talk of how cursed people-speakers are, how evil and vile, how that gift always corrupts the bearer. By this point, mostly everyone will have realized what Rinna is. (I picked up on it before they left the castle.) And the rest of the story, for Rinna, is coming to terms with who she is and finding a way to be herself and still be the good, wholesome person she desires to be, even with this power that so easily can be twisted to evil purposes.
Plot-wise, the person who is behind all these events, in fact who has been behind all the major events in the series practically in one form or another, is none other than Selia, one time lady-in-waiting to Isi and a people-speaker. It is Isi and Rinna who defeat her, with Enna and Dasha's assistance in subduing her followers.
In the end, Rinna has found a way to balance her gifts and herself, learning that people-speaking is much more than simply controlling others, and is at its root a healing gift and one that allows her to give others the assurance of truth. Honestly, seeing how she grows in her gift and seeing who she becomes would be quite interesting. And she goes home to her family, to the Forest and to her Ma. She knows she may well travel still, but for now she has to learn how to simply be Rinna-girl.
I loved Isi, Dasha and Enna in this book, especially Enna and Dasha. Those two could go off on their own adventures and keep me amused. Rinna, since she was so cautious with her power, was quite passive, so it was difficult in many ways to know what her personality is really like. The boys were a bit bland this time around, very dominated by our female players, from Selia to the fire sisters and Rinna. Razo gets the most page-time, but even he could have done a bit more. I honestly thought that all these people around Rinna should have been able to recognize her disquiet and do more to help her.
So, it is staying at three stars because while I enjoyed it, the story was slow for me and while I really liked a lot of the characters, Rinna did not stand out for me. Enjoyable, but not a book I will reread terribly often.