The Guardian Forest

Elanraigh Book 1

Young Adult - Fantasy - Epic
292 Pages
Reviewed on 06/12/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Peggy Jo Wipf for Readers' Favorite

The cover of The Guardian Forest drew my attention before I read how enticing this magical fantasy would be. Sandra A. Hunter did not disappoint as the plot was just as charming and alluring as the characters. Lady Thera ArNarone sees the need to defend her family, friends, and people against the terrifying Memteth warriors. As a Salvai, she has a oneness with the forest-mind of Elanraigh that speaks and teaches her their ways. Traveling to Elankeep, she encounters dangers she never had to face under the protection of her father, Duke Leon. Will she find her home still intact when she returns? Will the young Chamakin, heir to the Ttamarini people remember the moments they spent together? Or will the handsome Cythian nobleman catch her eye? Will her choice of mate affect her vow to the Elanraigh?
The Guardian Forest by Sandra A. Hunter lures the reader as Thera is not your typical noble. Her unique connection to the elements around her gives her an advantage over the enemy, but there is always the fear she will not be ready for the task before her. With battles by sea, fear of an untried alliance, and coming of age, Thera’s path is unsure. The author takes the reader through a three-month period where Thera must find the strength to face unspeakable foes and trials. I found this novel fascinating as this young woman had to trust, learn, and humble herself. I would recommend this novel to those who love a good magical fantasy with a touch of romance. I anticipate the next book in this series, The Scourge of Shadows.

Ray Simmons

The Guardian Forest, book one of the Elanraigh series by Sandra A. Hunter, surprised me. I could feel Native American influences in many areas of the religious and spiritual lives of the people of Allenholme, while at the same time they seemed so much like English colonists with Celtic influences running through them. Maybe there is a similar mix of culture and religion out there in the fantasy world, but this is the first time I have come across this particular combination. I liked it. I felt as if I was seeing a world that might have been possible if the pilgrims and Native Americans could have gotten along every day of the year as they did on Thanksgiving. Sandra A. Hunter does a great job in showing us what that world might look like. The fact that the heroine of the story is a teenage girl drives home the message of how it is the young who often pave the way for positive change.

The protagonist of The Guardian Forest is a fourteen-year-old girl named Thera. I fell in love with her fresh outlook on life and her simple, direct way of determining what might be good for her and what might need to be changed. Thera is the daughter of the leader, but she strives to understand and be worthy of the common folk. I liked her instantly and my admiration grew the more I read. Thera is the star of the story but there are a lot of great minor characters to appreciate also. The plot is good, the setting perfect, and the world building involved fitting for a young adult novel.

K.C. Finn

The Guardian Forest is a work of fantasy fiction written for young adults by author Sandra A Hunter, and it forms the first book in the Elanraigh series. The Elanraigh of the series’ title represents the forest-mind, and in this introduction to it, we see it send a vision to a young woman, Thera. Awakening her to the powers she has to bond with nature and read the hearts of others, Thera also discovers a new desire to love and be loved in return. There are plenty of romantic options for her to choose from, but the threat of darkness coming from across the sea may ruin it all before it has even begun.

The most impressive feature of this delightful fantasy work is the level of detail taken to populate its world with realistic and interesting characters. Thera’s village of Allenholme and the people around her add a grounding realness to the events taking place, making you feel deeply for the fate of her people should Thera fail to develop her gifts. This leads to deep emotional bonds between families and a compelling romantic plot as Thera awakens to the possibilities of deeper connections with those around her, presenting a well-rounded coming of age tale amid the action and excitement of the main magical fantasy plot. Author Sandra A Hunter describes her world vividly, drawing readers in and setting the scene for more books to come. Overall, The Guardian Forest is a compelling first book in what promises to be an innovative and highly atmospheric series.