Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Forest of Souls!
Title: Forest of Souls
Author: Lori M Lee
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publication date: 23 June 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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 to become the queen’s next royal spy, her plans are derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend Saengo.
And then Sirscha, somehow, restores Saengo to life.
Unveiled as the first soulguide in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a soulguide can restrain them. As war looms, Sirscha must master her newly awakened abilities before the trees shatter the brittle peace, or worse, claim Saengo, the friend she would die for.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Warnings: immolation, oppression of a minority
Forest of Souls has a story of politics and magic with a protagonist who had one idea of how her life would go forth and is suddenly having to take another path. Sirscha had been aiming to be the next Shadow of her country, which is essentially a position of being spymaster/assassin, and her mentor, the current Shadow is a tough taskmaster who also has other apprentices. When she tries to snatch up her rival apprentice’s task, the mission goes awry and instead she ends up awakening her (unknown to her) shaman powers, while also raising her best friend from the end. Now, considering her Queen despises shaman-born and has them caged in camps, it is not an ideal place for Sirscha’s powers to awaken, and when invited by Ronin, a neutral party who has been ruling over the Dead Wood (a cursed region) and using that as a leverage to keep the three countries in check, she takes up on his offer to try to control the Dead Wood. However, with her emergence as a soul guide, and the three countries are once again on the brink of conflict, the politics of the Thiy are going to be involved in her life, the fate of her best friend, and a threat that will arise.
That has been the constant of my life. Not obedient enough. Not clever enough, except maybe in languages, and what use is that? Not humble enough to suit my betters. Not enough for the parents who abandoned me, or the monks who raised me, or the officits who trained me.
Now, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the Grisha trilogy and this book – a cursed region that is deemed impossible to enter or eradicate from the land, and a special summoner/shaman born with a rare power who could solve the problem of the cursed region – but that is like a fraction of the plot, so not a direct comparison but yeah, there are elements. There are various other things going on with the plot here – like the freedom of the shamanborn in Evewyn, and Sirscha’s desire to rely on her ample martial skills rather than the magic that is new to her, the tense relations between the three countries, Ronin who is sitting controlling the peace but also hiding something from Sirscha, and the lore which defined the history of the countries. There’s also the conflict in her, about what she thought her life would be, and this new heavy burden on her shoulders, and also about the love for her country against the fact that her sovereign will never allow her to live peacefully in it. I loved the relationship between Sirscha and Saengo, and how much that drives Sirscha’s choices. I also liked Sirscha’s banter with the Kazahyn Prince, especially in the light of her being ‘IDGAF about nobels and their etiquette anymore’.
“You still want to help me?” I ask, dubious.
“I don’t see why not. Besides, Spinner’s End is sorely lacking in people who can hold a conversation for more than two sentences.”
“Maybe that’s because they’re in a hurry to rid themselves of your company.”
Finally, the scenes in the Dead Wood are so creepy! I loved the way the horror of that place was rendered in the story – you could feel Sirscha’s fear and dread, and I could practically visualize the grim atmosphere of the place.
Overall, it was a good start to a series, and has amazing writing, a sisterhood to die for, and some interesting twists in the ending.
Is it diverse?Asian cast of characters
You can read the first chapter here
Lori is an avid writer, reader, artist, and lover of unicorns. She should probably spend less time on the internet (but she won’t). She considers herself a unicorn aficianado, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.