I was nine when I first read Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest: The Forests of Silence, published way back in 2000, the beginning of an eight book series (that spawned another two after that). Since then, it has gone on to be published worldwide and sell a massive 15 million copies.
When the seven gems of the magical Belt of Deltora, the only power capable of stopping the evil Shadow Lord from invading, are stolen and hidden throughout the land, the Shadow Lord takes control of the city and plunges it into despair. The only hope for Deltora rests on two unlikely companions who set out on a quest to find the gems and free their land from the Shadow Lord, their first destination being the Forests of Silence.
Returning to this book after more than a decade was not something I did without consternation. I loved The Forests of Silence and the series it belongs to as a child. Losing myself in the world, I read and re-read the books and refused to put them down. However, older and having moved on from Deltora Quest and Narnia, to the amazing Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb and, of course, George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, I couldn’t help but feel like, after 12 years, The Forests of Silence may be a bit terrible.
Surprisingly, it isn’t.
Despite the petite page count of 120, it’s almost easy to forget that this is a young adult’s book. After all this time, I still found myself enjoying The Forests of Silence. The story, while somewhat generic, plays host to a number of dark themes that Rodda doesn’t dumb down for kids. The novel begins in Jared’s point of view, as you bear witness to the events that place the Shadow Lord in control of Deltora. A place of famine and misery, the land is a dangerous and unfriendly place ruled by an evil tyrant. Despite this, you can feel hope bubbling beneath the surface of this world.
Rodda injects this hope into the story with the characters Lief and Barda. It is to them that the impossible task of saving Deltora falls upon. Lief, Jared’s son, is a strong character, written in a way that will make boys put themselves in his shoes. Frustrated by the Shadow Lord’s rule, he is fueled by a desire to do what’s right and doesn’t hesitate to take up the quest set upon him. My only criticism is that Jared and Lief share some defining traits, so when the point of view is switched, they don’t entirely feel like different characters. Lief’s companion is Barda, a soldier who initially views Lief as a burden. It’s hard to tell whether to like him at first, but as the story progresses, Barda’s character arc is perhaps the most interesting.
Speeding along at a frantic pace yet still covering plenty of ground, The Forests of Silence is a thrilling read. While the text is easy, the story and descriptions of the world still flourish. The epic fantasy lover in me was, at times, crying out for further character building, but you still care for the characters, hoping they’ll make it through any dangers.
The Forests of Silence is a book I loved as a child and one I still enjoyed as an adult. It’s a testament to Rodda’s writing that a children’s book could still be enjoyed by someone who has ‘grown up.’ With a dangerous world, a gripping story and interesting characters, she has crafted the perfect introduction to fantasy for children. No matter what age you are, this is a quest worth taking.
This September, we’ve asked eight writers to revisit their favourite books from childhood for our new series, When I was young.