Title: Forest of Souls
Author:Lori M. Lee
Genre: Fantasy / Teen & YA
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Series: Shamanborn #1
Publish Date: June 23rd 2020
Synopsis: ” 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.”
“If I’m not to be the Shadow, then I am nothing. I am tired of being nothing.”
All her life Sirscha has been a nothing. Until she is one of the chosen to be a contender for the Shadow, a spy for the Queen. If Sirscha would be chosen as Shadow then she would finally be something other than an orphan and a nobody. In the meantime, she bides her time as a soldier in the Queen’s army alongside her best friend, Saengo. One day on a routine journey to another town, tragedy strikes. A fight between some Shamanborn and Sirscha and Saengo results in a fatal wound to Saengo. Sirscha is absolutely devastated and in her sorrow, she does something to heal Saengo. When Sirscha comes to, she discovers that not only did she heal her, but brought her back from the dead. And that Sirscha now had the distinct glowing eyes of a Shamanborn.
“Threat of retribution silenced those who remembered their Shamanborn friends and relatives, but for everyone else? The ignorance bred fear.”
Shamanborn are outlawed in Sirschas country. Most have been imprisoned or killed and because of this reason, Sirscha and Saengo are sent to The Spider King, a Shamanborn who lives in The Dead Wood and claims he can possibly help Sirscha learn to use her powers as the only living Soulguide if she helps him with controlling The Dead Wood and its souls. Because apparently they are evil and out of control and he can longer control them like he used to. Yeah, it’s as creepy as it sounds. AND there’s a ticking clock on Sirscha to learn how to wield her powers as Saengos life is once more in danger.
“The crush of so many expectations is matched only by the fear of not measuring up. I press my palms to my temples. Fear is not a wall. It is a whip at my back, driving me onward.”
Forest of Souls was an eerie, action-packed, and fast-paced story that digs its hooks into you and doesn’t let go. As soon as I started it I couldn’t put it down. I loved the plot and all its world-building. I’d say my only real complaints revolved around Sirscha. While being impulsive and tough, I did not really feel like we got to know her as much as we could have. I’m hopeful that the next book in the series will flesh her out a bit more. The relationship between her and Saengo is a main point of the story and at times it felt like it was just forgotten? Besides these two things, I did get very into the story and its world.
“Although I’m still coming to terms with what my abilities might mean, I have proven to myself the measure of my worth. Someday, I will prove it to them as well.”
I am eagerly waiting for news on book two and what comes next for Sirscha and Saengo! I’m giving Forest of Souls a 4 out of 5 stars. Keep an eye out for its release on the 23rd!
*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Many thanks to the publisher for the ARC!