Title: Forest Of Souls (Shamanborn #1)
Author: Lori M. Lee
Pub. Date: June 23rd 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Pages: 400 Pages
🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤
We don’t often see YA Fantasy with a strong female/female friendship at its core but they’re SO needed! Forest Of Souls has ZERO romance my fellow book lovers, instead we got the ride or die friendship of a lifetime. Our MC Sirscha was orphaned at a very young age & then recruited by the Prince/Queens Army. On the side she trains for the coveted/competitive spot of Queen’s Spy where she is trained by Kendara, an older woman who is the current spy for the Queen. Challenged & tested every day with hopes that she gets selected but unsure of who her competitors are, Sirscha is determine to prove everyone wrong. She has no house to claim her & no wealth to back her, she is looked down upon & often taunted to get her to leave her training. The only friendship she’s managed to make is with Saengo who has the complete opposite of upbringings. The daughter of a well respected prominent family, Saengo trains in the Queens Army as a way to rebel against expectations placed upon her. She isn’t disciplined when she steps out of line but that isn’t for want. Saengo craves to be treated like every other soldier & hates seeing Sirscha get the brunt of the discipline for the both of them.
When side tracked during their camps travels one day, they find themselves in a world of danger & consequences are set in motion. All eyes are on Sirscha when in a moment of life or death, her Shaman abilities are activated unbeknownst to her. Bringing Saengo back to life after an attack from a Shaman wielding the fire element left her for dead. The only issue is that in this world there is nothing worse than being a Shaman. To be discovered to have Shaman abilities is to live a life imprisoned or be killed. This is because the Queen had her own family wiped out by Shamans and since then has not been able to pardon any who cross her lands. This of course poses a conflict since Sirscha was a top contender for the title of Queen’s Spy. Word gets out & gets back to Ronin, the Spider King who is in charge of The Dead Wood where souls can be found trapped within the trees. No one dares go into the Dead Wood without an invitation from The Spider King & even he can’t promise you complete & total safe passage. Ronin takes interest in Sirscha believing her to be the only living Soul Guide which puts her in a odd position. Her powers seem to control the souls reaching out from the trees & Ronin means to utilize her. Sirscha is up for the task but she wants answers to her questions & to get to the root of the problem. Saengo may be back from the dead but is beginning to show signs of the rot/decomposition. Sirscha will do anything to keep her friend alive especially because they are now bound in more ways than one (spoilery won’t say) making it a necessity.
The strongest aspects of this book are within the core friendship between Sirscha & Saengo as well as the message of self worth. Sirscha doesn’t know her worth, she constantly feels the need to prove herself to her superiors & craves approval. Driven by that need to be accepted & valued, she is hell bent on the position of Queen’s Spy & then thrown off kilter when that seems unlikely. If not the Queens Spy, then who will she become? this is always at the forefront of her actions. Sirscha is honorable, loyal, fierce & wicked with her fighting abilities but she doesn’t see her own value. I LOVED her character growth, seeing her reclaim the power within & realizing she is absolutely more than enough. As far as the world building, it’s very atmospheric & eerie especially the scenes in The Dead Wood. I only wished there was more exploration of Sirscha’s own Shaman abilities. At the very beginning we get a whole Glossary for this world however we don’t really see all of it used in the text. I kind of wish we had because some of the abilities in the Glossary for some of the Shaman sound unique & interesting. I also was hoping to get an appearance from the feared Queen herself but that didn’t happen. The side characters however were really clutch! Prince Meilek at one point sort of gave me love interest vibes but that may have just been me, I did enjoy his character. The ending of course left me wishing I had the follow-up in my hands. It seems Sirscha’s adventure is far from over, in fact it’s just begun…
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