Shadows of the Forest I think is a story about the afterlife and the unbreakable bond shared between twins. The story infused some aspects of Japanese mythology and legend.
I think this story jumped right into the middle. It seemed like there was no beginning. It just got right into the thick of things. Not so much preamble as to how exactly the main characters got to where they were. Fortunately, before the book ended it clarified it and stated the events that lead to how they ended up being where they were in the first part of the story.
The whole time I was reading the story, I had this big unanswered question running through my head as to how they found themselves in such a state. It was disappointing because it made me distracted and less interested to know how the rest of the story developed. Again, I am thankful that by the last chapter, the whole thing came to light and my question was finally answered. But I think it took quite a while and I was still not so comfortable about it.
The ending was good. If in some way, I was not so into the story, how it ended made up for it. All in all, what I could deduce was that the book was exploring the possibility of the afterlife. Of how it could look and feel like. What I like about the whole experience was the belief that if you don't feel good enough in this lifetime, then maybe, in the next life, you will find what you are looking for and what you are meant to be. To find happiness, purpose and love. To be actually given another chance to live your life with a sense of usefulness and being needed. To finally be the what you wanted to be.
One other aspect that was in the story was the explanation for the northern lights or the aurora. I find it a bit interesting. According to the story, the northern lights were the souls of the departed that rose up into the heavens, each with different colors. I think this is the same thing as what was in the animated movie Brother Bear. The shaman went to the top of the highest peak and ask for help from the spirits to find the right totem for the person who is due to receive his/her totem. And the spirits were represented by the northern lights. If you haven't watched Brother Bear or can't remember the scene I'm talking about, please watch it. I've watched it, maybe a hundred times. My nephew, who is now 13, used to watch this movie. It was his favorite when he was younger.
I think the one great lesson the story wanted to convey was the unconditional love shared between twins or siblings. Cole and Lily wanted to save and sacrifice their own life so the other may live. They were both willing to give up each other's happiness and life just so the other one may survive. Their love for each other is so unconditional and so selfless that it knows no bounds. I guess, this is not just true for twins but for regular siblings also. If you have this tight bond with your sister or brother, I think you would be willing to do anything for them. I for one would do some things a thousand times over for my brother and sister.
I give the book three white foxes. I appreciate the explanation at the last chapter about how the twins ended up in the middle of the road and how the rest of the story ended up in the forest. It was to me the most important part of the whole story which was the key to understanding it in its entirety. If not for it, I would have written off the story as a waste of time because it would have been confusing and whatever the author was trying to tell me was lost. The whole thing would have been pointless.
... live such a fulfilling life that the stars themselves will be jealous of the way she shines.
- Emma Michaels, Shadows of the Forest -