By Lori M. Lee
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Print Length: 400 pages
Release Year: 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.69
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. (Goodreads)
Forest of Souls was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020. I was so excited when I finally got my hands on it that I had to force myself to slow down a bit. I’m trying to spend a longer time in books like this because I want to really take my time to contemplate and savour the story. While the story was fast-paced, throwing you into the action immediately, I managed to slow my reading pace comfortably. Lee does an amazing job of showing rather than telling, so whenever I set the book down I had plenty to think about. Regardless of the fact that I came to the same conclusions as our protagonist as quickly as she did, it allowed me to explore aspects of the story that the author set aside. This only adds to my excitement for the upcoming sequel Spider’s Web, because I want to see how these concepts are brought into fruition.
The magic system definitely gave me similar vibes to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, and the aesthetic of this world definitely felt influenced series like The Untamed. The lore of this world felt well-developed and even though we only view the world through a single character’s eyes, I definitely felt like we were provided with more than sufficient world-building.
My favourite part of this book was the characters. Forest of Souls includes a beautiful sisterly-friendship between the protagonist Sirscha and her familiar Saengo. Lee does an amazing job portraying the platonic love between the two girls, and how their situation affects them not only as individuals but as partners. The lack of romance in this book is refreshing, but not entirely not existent, as there is definitely foundation laid down for it. Whatever the author ultimately decides, I can only imagine it being executed well, as her ability to set up characters and their relationships are definitely above average.