22 June 2020 Saskatchewan, Canada

Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1) by Lori M. Lee

Author: Lori M. Lee
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Pages: 400
Source: NetGalley
Buy: Amazon|Indigo Canada|Barnes & Noble|Book Depository
Rating: 4/5
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.-Goodreads

I received an E-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!! Thank you to Page Street Kids for this E-ARC!!

When I first opened Forest of Souls, I was a little taken aback by the size of the glossary. My initial thoughts were that this book would be too complex and overwhelming. That I wouldn't be able to understand what was going on without the glossary glued to my side. However, that was not the case at all. Lori M. Lee does a wonderful job of introducing and getting readers comfortable with the world of Thiy. The author has created a rich and vibrant world. There was never a moment while reading this book, where I felt too much information was thrown on me. Instead, information is introduced at various stages and flows nicely with the story. The world-building doesn't only come alive in the places and their food but, also through their political hierarchy. I felt a deeper connection and understanding of the Evewynian people by understanding the role of the Queen and Prince Company. It is a society built on respect for hierarchies (age, year in school and status in society).

I enjoyed the strong friendship between Sirscha (the main character) and Saengo in the Forest of Souls. Their friendship and love for one another, really stood out throughout the novel. Sirscha is a strong female character with a determine personality. Once she has set her mind onto something there is no stopping her. She is especially motivated if it means protecting the ones she loves or making things right. For that, I find her a very admirable character. However, she isn't a black and white character. She has flaws just like any normal human being. She strives to be the best and prove herself to others, instead of accepting herself. We see this through Sirscha's character development which I won't lie felt a bit rushed towards the end.

I love how Saengo is a very loyal best friend. My favourite character is probably Theyen. I love his personality and how it clashes with Sirscha's personality. I enjoyed reading any scenes that involved Theyen. Whereas, I felt differently when it came to Prince Meilek. I did not hate Prince Meilek but, at first, I felt kind of "meh" about him. I felt his and Sirscha's connection was lacking, in the beginning, despite them both knowing each other before the book events. This gets better as the novel progresses and I'm curious to see more of Prince Meilek in the sequel.

I won't say much about the antagonists, but I wish the readers could have seen more of them. The one antagonist places such a figurative role in this book. We never get to meet them (which I hope changes in book #2) but, we hear about them all the time. The second, main, antagonist isn't given as much screen time as I hoped. I feel this person's role, as an antagonist, isn't that shocking when you find out but I wish the main character interacted with this person more.

The magic system in this world gives off the vibes of Avatar the Last Airbender mixed with Harry Potter (minus the wizards and the magical school). Some of the Shaman's abilities reminded me of the Avatar the Last Airbender. Whereas, the dark feel of the Dead Wood, and the idea of creepy crawlies, reminded me of Harry Potter.

The Dead Wood, by the way, is terrifying!! I would never want to visit there!! The horrors of Dead Wood are described beautifully. Readers can easily imagine this haunting place. For some odd reason, I kept thinking about The Haunted Forest (from The Wizard of Oz) whenever I read about the Dead Wood in Forest of Souls. The two places have nothing in common but being scary places.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I definitely consider it to be a cover buy. It is designed by Charlie Bowater.

I really enjoyed this story. I will certainly be reading book 2 when it comes out. The plot kept me entertained with its action and curiosity about what was going to happen next in the story. The first book will definitely leave readers with some unanswered questions.

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