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Published by Page Street Kids on June 23, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: ARC, eBook
Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an epic, unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Susan Dennard.
Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training, she plans on challenging her rival for the position of the queen’s next royal spy, but she’s forced to abandon her plan when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.
And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.
With her mysterious ability uncovered, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King—the only person powerful enough to control the haunted Dead Wood that separates the kingdoms and, ultimately, enforces peace. But the Spider King’s hold of the Dead Wood is weakening, and he needs Sirscha to use her newly awakened powers to obliterate the bloodthirsty forest. As war looms on the horizon, it’s up to Sirscha to learn what she can do and who she can trust before time runs out.
The author/publisher provided a free copy of the book for review purposes - thank you! Receiving a review copy does not guarantee a positive review and therefore do not affect the opinion or content of the review.
Trigger Warnings: fantasy violence, death of a friend, abuse, bullying (at one point a character tries to get the MC to commit suicide by saying she wouldn't be missed by anyone)
I don’t know how I feel about Lori M. Lee’s latest novel.
Forest of Souls is the first novel in the Shamanborn series, and most of the book is driving the plot and story rather than developing character and world-building. There are quite a few holes, and while there is world-building, I mostly felt I was speculating based on vague information. (If life experience has taught me anything, that never ends well, but maybe it’s my luck.) I found the shamans and their different powers interesting, though, and I have a burning curiosity to find out what happens next in the sequel when it’s released. Some parts of the world were also atmospheric, like the Dark Wood; it was creepy, and Lee made me feel like I did not want to find myself in there all alone. Please keep that place away from me – I want no part; god forbid I end up in there all alone with no food. 😂
Personally, I enjoyed the friendship between Sirscha and Saengo. The other characters, though…
Sirscha and Saengo have a close bond well before Sirscha accidentally restores her best friend to life, which I loved to see throughout the book as they try to navigate the challenges. I especially liked Prince Theyen, who, out of all the characters in the book, was the most enjoyable to read with his sassy remarks and comebacks when interacting with Sirscha. (I don’t know about anyone else, but I secretly hope his sass will continue in the next book.)
The other characters, however, just feels… flat? I would have loved to see some more exploration between Sirscha’s established relationship (friendship? acquaintance?) with Prince Meleik, and her developing friendship with Theyen. Based on the first book itself, I feel like I’ve either missed something or there needed to be more context because I didn’t care all too much. Maybe my opinion will change in future novels, but as of right now, I’m not exactly warming up with the characters.
Another thing that bothers me is we don’t get to meet Kendara, and it’s evident throughout the novel she’s played an essential part in Sirscha’s life, especially as a mentor. We just know of her based on what’s told to us from Sirscha’s experience, and there were quite a few opportunities in Forest of Souls that were missed. However, I do think Kendara plays a far more important role in subsequent novels, so it’s a possibility we’ll get more showing than telling or even better, meeting her on the page.
Forest of Souls is relatively slow-paced.
This is more than likely a personal preference, but I felt the book was slow for most of the novel, and then it only started picking up in the last 30-40%. It’s a very good possibility this was the case for me because Forest of Souls isn’t a character or world-driven novel, and others will feel differently based on their reading preferences. Despite that, I did enjoy the story and am interested in potentially picking up the sequel when it comes out, but it’s not a definite favorite.
About Lori M. Lee
Lori M. Lee is the author of FOREST OF SOULS, first in the Shamanborn duology, as well as GATES OF THREAD AND STONE and THE INFINITE. She’s also a contributor to the anthologies A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS and COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES. She considers herself a unicorn aficionado, enjoys marathoning TV shows and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.
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