Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 💫
Forest of Souls is a YA fantasy book following Sirscha, a royal spy in training. Set on achieving her goal of becoming the Queen’s shadow, her life is upended when shamans (magical beings) attack her and Saengo, her best friend. Set in a rich world inspired by Asia with strong themes of friendship, self-worth and adventure I was waiting in anticipation of its release.
Overall, I thought the book was a strong start to a trilogy, and I enjoyed the read.
The book had a strong focus on self-worth explored through the main character Sirscha as she matures and develops throughout the story. Sirscha’s ambition to achieve her goal of becoming the Queen’s shadow, the royal spy and assassin, drives her actions. This was ok, if perhaps a bit rushed in parts of the story. Personally, I find this theme has the risk of becoming frustrating for the reader, however this was avoided by Sirscha’s bold behaviour. While not fully self-confident, she was also not afraid to take action during situations that required it.
The world and atmosphere was also very well done. The settings described were vivid and immersive. I consider myself to have a good sense of direction, so the references to places by compass direction were very helpful to create a full image of the world. However, the book could definitely use a map, and if you don’t enjoy the use of compass directions you might find the world a bit difficult to grasp. The story was also very atmospheric and darker than I initially anticipated it would be. This book would be a perfect read at dusk during a rainy, overcast day. Some scenes got particularly creepy and chilling which I really enjoyed; it gave a great contrast between the places in the world and gave gravity to the situation Sirscha was in.
I know that some people are unsure of the story due to the involvement of spiders. If you are an arachnophobe I would avoid the book, as it does involve some spiders. I myself am not a fan of spiders, but I found it fine – in fact this might have enhanced my reading experience.
The characters are entertaining, and there was some great witty humour. Sirscha’s friendship with Saengo was a major focus – this provided the backbone of the story and their loyalty to each other was lovely to read. My favourite character however was Theyen, who I’m hoping we will get to see a lot more of in future books.
A lot of characters are introduced which created a very dynamic story. Each character played a key role and had a distinct personality. As this is the first book in a trilogy there is clearly much more development to come. While I did enjoy having many different characters this did mean that some of them were not as fully fleshed out as I would have liked, and I didn’t make as strong an emotional connection to them. Personally, I would have liked if some of the characters would have been explored a little more, but then again I am quite a character driven reader.
The main feeling I was left with from the book was lots, and lots, of questions. This is both and good and bad thing for me. I do think the book felt a little like its purpose was to lead onto the next book, though it did have its own story arc. The world while vivid is a little difficult to put together, but as I said this is most likely going to be explored in future books. Having these questions though also means that I want to read the next book. As you can see, I’m a little conflicted (if you were even able to make out my thinking)!
The book is fast paced and was easy to read. It has a lot of twists and turns; it left me with a lot of questions, which I cannot talk about without spoiling the story! While the book was not perfect it was enjoyable, and I will be picking up the sequel when it comes out.
If you enjoy YA fantasy with an atmospheric world full of magic and witty characters then you’ll enjoy this story.
If you’ve read this book what were you thoughts? I’d love to know!