Thank you to Page Street Kids for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Book: Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1)
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.
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.
Author: Lori M. Lee
Year Published: 2020
- Plot: 4/5
- Characters: 4.5/5
- Writing: 4/5
- Overall: 4.5/5
Forest of Souls was a magical read about the strength of friendship and developing self worth. It was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and I really liked it!
The main character was Sirscha, a spy-in-training who discovers she is the first soulguide in living memory and the only one capable of restraining the vicious, dangerous Dead Wood. I loved her uncompromising fierceness, skill and strength- she was a force that you definitely would not want to be on the wrong side of!
No matter how hard Sirscha trained and how skilled she became most people never saw any value in her because of her low station. This resulted in a fear of never being enough and a desire to be worthy and seek external validation that drove her every action. These fears, of failure and disappointing those around us, are something I think that many people can relate to and it’s amazing seeing Sirscha start to realise that her worth isn’t tied to what others think of her.
Another key aspect of this novel was unconditional friendship. I’ve never seen a YA fantasy that puts a friendship front and centre instead of a romance and it was a beautiful thing to behold. Saengo was Sirscha’s best friend and despite their differences, especially in rank, they were inseparable and would do anything for each other. Through all the trials and tribulations their friendship stood firm where others would have wavered and it gave them the strength to keep fighting for each other. My only wish is that Saengo gets more of an active role in the next book because I really would have liked to see more of her in action.
I’ve always been intrigued by magic systems in books and the system in Forest of Souls was one of the most interesting I’ve ever seen. The author has said that it was inspired by Hmong shamanism and it had a heavy emphasis on spirits and souls as the source of magic. It also had an elemental aspect with the five Shamanic Callings being fire, water, earth, wind and light. Separate to this there were also the Shadowblessed who could manipulate shadows. I loved how well fleshed out the system was and the fact that spirit familiars were necessary to channel the magic was probably my favourite part of it.
I loved the Dead Wood, the chilling forest of souls referenced by the title, as it was so morbid and visceral while also serving as a symbol for how hatred can endure and power can corrupt even the most well intentioned person. A large chunk of the book was spent in the Dead Wood and its surroundings which was great but I hope too see much more of the world in the sequel. Overall, Forest of Souls was a brilliant YA fantasy novel that is beautiful both inside and out.
What did you think of Forest of Souls? What is your favourite friendship in a book? Let me know in the comments!
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