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Friday, October 17, 2014

Series Review: The Dark Forest books #1 and #2 by Michelle Diener

The Golden Apple (The Dark Forest #1)
by Michelle Diener
Kayla's world has been turned upside-down . . .

Her father has made her the prize in a deadly, impossible tournament, and Kayla has retaliated in the only way she knows how; by choosing her champion beforehand. But taking control of the outcome changes the game completely, and when the real reason behind the strange test becomes apparent, Kayla realizes not just her life, but her entire kingdom is at stake.

Rane's honor is torn in two...

In order to save his brother, Rane will do whatever he has to--including deceive and betray a princess. He knew nothing about this tournament would be easy, but when it turns into a deeper, far more sinister game, Rane is forced to see it through to the end, or leave his brother at the mercy of their enemy.

Now their fates are entwined, and they must venture into the deep, dark forest together.

Kayla and Rane are bound to one another by an enchantment and Kayla's actions. But the sorcerer forcing them to do his will may have miscalculated, because no-one comes out of the Great Forest unchanged. No-one.

The Golden Apple is loosely based on the fairy tale The Princess on the Glass Hill.

For a while now there has been an influx of fairy tale retellings, some good, some okay, and some, well, we won't mention them. So when this series came across my path I thought okay let's see what's in the offering. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. The Golden Apple opens with Princess Kayla royally ticked off at her father who has offered her and her virtue up on a platter when she decides to take control of her destiny, at least the extent she can. Rane is an angry and desperate man who will do anything to accomplish his goal, even if it means using Kayla to get the job done. 
On their quest they will discover new magics, can I just say balls of magic, fun characters including creatures up from the water controlled by the evil doers, and unbelievable cruelties all to be bested and outfoxed. 

The world building was great and vividly plotted and a real treat to read. The characters were well crafted and while annoying at times in their behaviors I found myself emotionally invested in the outcome and wanting more and more. The ending does offer some resolution; however, it is a bit of a cliffhanger - not of the "throw the book at a wall" severity, but the tale is obviously not over. Fortunately the second book in the series The Silver Pear is available and I was able to jump right in and continue the journey. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fairy tales with the caveat that you might just want to be sure you have book two handy. I received this book with a request for my honest review without any compensation whatsoever, other than the joy of reading a new book.

4 sheep


The Silver Pear (The Dark Forest #2)
by Michelle Diener
An unlikely princess . . .

Kayla is determined to master her new-found abilities as a wild magic witch. She's learning everything she can so she and her betrothed, Rane, can put a stop to the sorcerers who are recklessly gathering their power, building up their magic to take each other on in a war that will destroy the countries of Middleland.
An even more unlikely sorcerer . . .
Mirabelle's father was one of the greatest sorcerers in Middleland, but when he used the magic in the silver pear to bespell his pregnant wife to give birth to the greatest sorcerer who would ever live, he never thought that child would be a girl. Mirabelle is nothing like a usual sorcerer, confounding every expectation, and when she comes to the rescue of Rane's brother, Soren, she makes a decision few sorcerers would. She saves him, rather than herself, losing the silver pear in the process.
And using magic always exacts a price . . .
With war not just a possibility but simply a matter of time, there are no neutral parties and no fence-sitters in Kayla and Mirabelle's new world. Everyone is either an ally or an enemy and there is a price to pay for everything. The question is, how high will it be?

The Silver Pear picks up right where book one, The Golden Apple, left off and one of the really awesome things the author did with this installment was provide a prologue that gave a great recap of book one and what has happened so far in the tale. However, I would still recommend reading book one first as there is so much more to the tale, but that is just how I enjoy reading a series.

Kayla and Rane continue their quest and are out to beat the baddies. In this installment we are also introduced to Mirabelle, who encounters Soren, and is drawn into the adventure. Mirabelle is a sorcerer unlike any other; for one thing she is female and another, her magic does not act as expected. At times she seemed to me to be a bit wimpy, but it all fit with the tale and she does get her gumption on when it counts. Mirabelle was given the silver pear by her father to help with the control of her magic and like the golden apple the silver pear is believed to have been gifted by the gods and assists with powerful magics. Well of course everybody wants the pear and the apple, well who wouldn't I've already put my order in.

In this installment we also meet some new characters and learn more about those who had already been introduced. As with The Golden Apple this tale is full of action, magics, magical creatures, intrigue, and betrayals with oodles of baddies that have you gritting your teeth waiting for them to get what is coming to them. The world building continues to be wonderful and the characters again well crafted sucking you into the story wanting to know what is going to happen next. This is the second installment and adding this to book one makes the tale feel complete with an ending like the little red cherry on the top of the sundae for dessert. If the two books had been combined it might have been too long, but with The Silver Pear jumping right in at the conclusion of The Golden Apple makes it feel just right. I don't know if there will be more stories featuring these characters, but there is room for the tales to continue with new adventures and quests without this being a cliffhanger. I received this book with a request for my honest review without any compensation whatsoever, other than the joy of reading a new book.

4 sheep


About the Author:
Michelle Diener writes historical fiction and fantasy. Her Susanna Horenbout & John Parker series includes IN A TREACHEROUS COURT, KEEPER OF THE KING’S SECRETS and IN DEFENSE OF THE QUEEN. Set in the court of Henry VIII, it features the real historical figures of artist Susanna Horenbout and Henry’s Keeper of the Palace of Westminster and Yeoman of the King’s Robes, John Parker.Other historical novels by Michelle Diener include THE EMPEROR’S CONSPIRACY andBANQUET OF LIES, both set during the Napoleonic Wars in London. DAUGHTER OF THE SKY is set in Zululand during the Victorian era.Michelle’s first fantasy novel MISTRESS OF THE WIND is set for a December 23rd, 2013, release. It is a retelling of the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon.

Michelle was born in London, grew up in South Africa, and now lives in Australia with her husband and two children.


  1. i am not familiar with the fairy tale this was based one which I think is a good thing that way I won't be comparing or having specific expectations. It's great thy this adaptation was a great one, I've read enough BLAH tales, I'll be fine if I don't read another one

    1. I hadn't heard of it either. People forget there are more fairy tales other than the Grimm's.