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Book: “Wildbound” by Elayne Audrey Becker
Publishing Info: Tor Teen, August 2022
Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+
Book Description: 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.
Previously Reviewed: “Forestborn”
Review: This book has been on my “most anticipated” list pretty much from the minute I finished the first book, “Forestborn.” It was a surprise read for me, as I went in with very few expectations. But now the situation is reversed, and I had tons of expectations for greatness when I picked this one up. And, while it didn’t quite reach the highs of the first book, it definitely didn’t let me down. Let’s get into the review.
The two shifters, prophesied to bring death to the land years ago, have been separated. Rora has gone north to try and gather intel and help form a resistance to the tyrannical leader (who happens to be their half brother) who is trying stamp magic out of the land. For his part, Helos is eager to return to his work as a healer. But soon enough he finds that he is unable to so easily slip back into his quiet life. Instead, with the knowledge that he and his sister are potentially in line for the throne in the north, Helos is beginning to see a very different future for himself.
I was a little hesitant when I opened this book and realized the POV was split between Rora and Helos. For one thing, I was very happy in my single-POV perspective in the last book. And for another thing, in that book at least, Helos was kind of an unreasonable grump who I didn’t foresee needing tons of time with going forward. But I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong! Not only were Helos’s chapters very good, but as it stands, Rora’s own story was so simple that this book couldn’t have existed if it had focused only on her events. Frankly, there were a few times when I felt the story lagged due to the slowness of her storyline.
For his part, Helos’s story focuses a lot on inner growth. Not only does he need to process the torture that he underwent in the first book, but we also see his struggles with finding a place for himself in the world. Where Rora was already comfortably working for the royal family, Helos was always floating in a more mixed role, working as a healer but also deeply in love with the youngest prince. On top of that, here he is beginning to come to grips with a future as a monarch himself. His story is very much one of having to find balance and a way forward when you have two extremes with regards to helping others: on one hand, a healer literally touches the people and provides care, and this can be incredibly rewarding. But is there a responsibility to take on the role of leader to help the greater good, even if that means a loss of the instant gratification that comes from being a healer? It’s all very good stuff and I think handled in a way that acknowledges the intricacies of these types of choices.
As I said, Rora’s story, unfortunately, is where the pacing of the book got held up. And the reason this book’s rating had to drop a bit for me from the first book’s place. Her story feels both very fragmented, with her jumping from one group and mission to a different group and mission and again with very little natural transition. Beyond that, she doesn’t have much of a personal arch, which just makes her story a bit harder to become truly invested in.
That said, I was still much more interested in Rora and Wes’s romance than in Helos and Finley. Even spending more time with Finley here, I couldn’t shake my impression that he came across very much as a “manic pixie dream boy,” without much true personality to come by, other than being this perfect, charismatic bean. Which, frankly, I’m just not that interested in. And then, due to the nature of the story, Rora and Wes are apart for much of the book. I kept anxiously awaiting them to be reunited, and it was completely worth it in the end. But I do think this long delayed reunion contributed to my struggles with the pacing of the book in the first half of the book.
Ultimately, I did find this book to be a good conclusion to the duology and a solid read on its own. I don’t think it quite lived up to the high of the first book, but it definitely didn’t detract from that in any way. And it did resolve and nicely tie up the loose heads left hanging from that book. Also, I still love the romance between Rora and Wes, and the payoff there was well worth the wait. Fans of the first book should definitely check out this conclusion!
Rating 8: The pacing stumbled a bit and Rora’s own character lacked a direct arch, but I enjoyed Helos’s story a lot more than I expected and the romance was still on point!
“Wildbound” can be found on this Goodreads list: YA Novels of 2022