Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publishing Info: June 2020 by Page Street Kids (Fairyloot edition)
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
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.
Forest of Souls is a fast-paced fantasy novel with an Asian-inspired setting and I absolutely loved it. I’ve read a lot of character-driven YA fantasy recently so I enjoyed reading something that was more plot-driven and a bit faster paced. The Dead Wood is so spooky! Some of the scenes were really atmospheric and creepy! The way the trees partly come to life and grab at the characters as they’re trying to get through the forest was really gripping. The world is painted really vividly and I loved learning about the various peoples, their cultures, history and magic, as I read.
There was no romance in this book and I have to say I was really happy about that. Every YA book seems to be either romance-heavy or at least have a main romantic subplot. So it was refreshing to read a fantasy novel that didn’t focus on romance or try and shoehorn a romance in.
Theyen was hands down the best character. He’s so full of sass and has some amazing lines. He really brought the scenes he was in to life. However, most of the supporting characters just didn’t seem very complex. By the end of the book we know hardly anything about them as the focus is so much on Sirscha. While I appreciated the book focused on her personal journey, I would have liked to have known the other characters more. Even though this book is clearly plot-driven, it would have benefited from the supporting characters having more depth. Having said that, I did love all the characters and can’t wait to see them again in the sequel.
I also felt we didn’t get to see much of Sirscha and Saengo’s friendship. At the start I thought that would be a big part of the book, and while their friendship was important to the story, the two characters didn’t actually spend that much time together. I’d have liked to have seen more of Saengo and how their friendship evolves after Saengo is brought back to life (not a spoiler, it’s in the blurb!).
Forest of Souls kept me on my toes. All the way through, I wasn’t sure which characters were going to end up being good or bad, or who Sirscha could really trust. There were lots of revelations and I was never sure what was going to happen next. By the end of the book there were still quite a few unanswered questions around Sirscha’s parentage and Kendara, which I’m guessing will get answered in the sequels.
One small thing which I, personally, would have liked, was for the some of the chapters to end in slightly different places. Not every chapter needs to end on a cliff-hanger, but a lot of the chapters didn’t end in a way that made me want to keep reading. If they had ended in slightly different places, I’d have been more compelled to head straight to the next chapter. But that’s a really small comment. It’s not something that prevented me fully enjoying it, I just felt it would have been more addictive if the chapters had been arranged or ended differently.
There are lots of twists, especially at the end! I need the sequel! I’m certain that the next book in the series will be one of my most anticipated reads of 2021. I can’t believe I have to wait until next year to find out what happens after that ending!