Fantastic Top Fives is a meme for Wyrd & Wonder, a monthlong celebration in May of all things fantasy.
This week’s topic:
Top Five Forest Fantasy Recs
Since wood is symbolic of fifth anniversaries, a theme for this year’s W&W is forest fantasy. For this topic, we can choose books that have “woodland settings, forest creatures, a particular focus on trees — or maybe even important wooden items and artifacts.” It’s totally up to you.
I’ve decided to focus on fantasy books that either have a forest setting or in which the forest has great significance. (Kinda went overboard and chose 7 🙃)
Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
A fantasy novella about the Wild Man of Greenhollow Wood. Tobias Finch has lived alone in the wood serving as its protector for 400 years. His only companions are his cat and the dryads who visit. But the predictability of his life is interrupted when Henry Silver takes up residence at Greenhollow Hall.
Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb
Of course, I had to include Hobb’s Rain Wild Chronicles. The Rain Wild Chronicles is part of Hobb’s larger Realm of the Elderlings epic fantasy series, which is divided into five sets of books — the first being the Farseer trilogy (of which Assassin’s Apprentice is the first book).
The Rain Wild Chronicles is actually a quartet beginning with Dragon Keeper. It takes place in a jungle-like setting called the Rain Wilds, where trees grow so large that people make homes inside them and whole families can live in one tree. The Rain Wilds is a volatile jungle through which flows the Rain Wild River, which floods often and can become acidic after an earthquake. If it flows white, keep out of the water because the acidity will eat away at you. That’s why people make homes, businesses, and cities in the trees. Some people grow up living only in the trees, walking from one enormous branch to another, hardly ever walking upon the earth. It’s one of the most impressive places I’ve ever read about.
Soldier Son series by Robin Hobb
Since I’m already talking about Hobb’s books, here’s another that fits the forest fantasy theme — the Soldier Son trilogy. This trilogy is unrelated to the Realm of the Elderlings books.
These books are flintlock fantasy. The trilogy begins with Shaman’s Crossing. Our protagonist, Nevare, is his father’s second son, meaning he’s destined to serve as a soldier — or so he believes because that’s what his society (and religion) dictates. But a spirit quest throws a wrench in these plans as Nevare is chosen by the magic to help put a stop to his people’s colonialization of the ancient forest belonging to the Specks, a group of people with dappled skin who leave deep in the ancient forests and greatly revere the trees.
IN THE NIGHT WOOD BY DALE BAILEY
It’s about a couple who moves to a secluded country home on the outskirts of a small English town following a fatal accident involving their child. The country home is completely surrounded by a forest that seems to encroach upon it. The story focuses on the couple’s grief, how they manage it and how it causes them to respond to the wood, which the townspeople believe to hold fae creatures.
The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
Let’s go to something for the kids. The Enchanted Wood is the first in the classic middle grade fantasy series, the Magical Faraway Tree. It’s about three children who move to the country with their parents and, while exploring the woods behind their new home, find a great tree in which lives many fantastic creatures. At the very top of the tree, they find a portal that can take them to different lands.
Little Witch Hazel: A Year in the Forest by Phoebe Wahl (illus.)
This one’s a children’s picture book about a little witch named Hazel who lives in Mosswood Forest and helps the animals there. The book is composed of four short stores, one for each season, and places emphasis on friendships, appreciating nature, respecting others, and being kind.
Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
It’s been a while since I thought of these books, but I really enjoyed reading them. Four books make up this YA paranormal series that takes place in Henrietta, Virginia. The first is the Raven Boys, which is about three boys from a boarding school in the area teaming up with a girl from the town to find the grave of a long-dead Welsh king along the ley lines in the area. One of the places that has a ley line is Cabeswater, a magical forest that creeped me out whenever I read about it and a place the characters frequent.
What forest fantasy novel/comic book/picture book would you recommend?