Title: Frozen II: Forest of Shadows
Author: Kamilla Benko
Readership: Middle Grade +
I received a copy of Frozen II: Forest of Shadows from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
After a strange illness strikes Arendelle, Anna discovers a secret room in the castle and incants a magic spell hoping to cure the sickness. Instead, a sinister wolf arrives, threatening to destroy the peaceful kingdom. Anna, Elsa and their friends embark on a thrilling quest to save Arendelle.
I have to begin my review with a confession: I’ve not watched either of the Frozen movies before. Truth be told, I haven’t needed to because I was teaching the film’s target audience at the time and I got daily scene-by-scene recaps from some very enthusiastic little fans. So, while I’m not personally familiar with everything that’s happened prior to this particular story, I am aware of the characters, stories and overall themes behind Frozen.
Forest of Shadows is told from Anna’s point of view, beginning with a scene from when she was child and she had a nightmare of being chased by a giant wolf through the forest. Flash forward sixteen years, and Elsa has been queen for the last three years and is well-respected by the citizens of Arendelle. With all her sister’s time being taken up dealing with the day-to-day running of the kingdom, Anna begins to feel left out, and, at times, unwanted, especially now that Elsa is about to embark on a Grand Tour of the world without her. Before Elsa leaves, a strange illness strikes the town, and while investigating what it could be, Anna unintentionally casts a spell that brings the terrifying wolf from her dreams to life, adding more pressure. It’s up to Anna, Elsa and their friends to save Arendelle before it’s too late.
The first question I’ll address is: can you read this book without watching the films? Yes, of course you can – Kamilla Benko includes enough of the backstory throughout the first few chapters to catch up those of you (like me) who might not be intimately familiar with the characters and their histories. That said, the basic premise is pretty easy to follow.
I liked the dynamic between Anna and Elsa – the burden of being queen is clearly weighing heavily on Elsa and Anna, without the pressure, is still reasonably carefree, thus causing some tension between the two, especially since Anna doesn’t recognise or understand (yet) how the pressure is affecting her older sister. What there is, however, is room for the sisters to grow and develop and eventually be able to communicate their concerns, misgivings and fears.
All of the side characters – Kristoff, Olaf and some new characters we meet along the way – are delightful and fun, especially little Echo, who we meet in the last third of the book. But while the side characters provide some additional depth to the story, it really is about Anna and Elsa and their relationship the whole way through.
The main tension in the book – the unknown illness and the sinister wolf – is suitably creepy and the sisters have a deadline to resolve both. Both sisters feel guilt about the situation – Elsa about the illness and Anna about the wolf – both believing they could have done something to prevent it, but both preserving in order to find a resolution that will save their kingdom.
It was fun, atmospheric and thrilling, and fans of the Frozen franchise will enjoy a new story featuring the much beloved characters.