Review : Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

« ๐ˆ ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ง๐จ ๐Ÿ๐š๐ฆ๐ข๐ฅ๐ฒ, ๐ง๐จ ๐ก๐จ๐ฆ๐ž, ๐ง๐จ ๐ญ๐š๐ฅ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐ญ๐ก๐š๐ง ๐Ÿ๐ข๐ ๐ก๐ญ๐ข๐ง๐ . ๐ˆ๐Ÿ ๐ˆ’๐ฆ ๐ง๐จ๐ญ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐’๐ก๐š๐๐จ๐ฐ, ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ง ๐ˆ ๐š๐ฆ ๐ง๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐ . ๐ˆ ๐š๐ฆ ๐ญ๐ข๐ซ๐ž๐ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐›๐ž๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ง๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐ . »

  • Release date : June 23rd 2020
  • Publishing house : Page Street Kids
  • Series : Shamanborn
  • Number of pages : 400
  • Book 2 : Broken Web
  • Illustrator : Charlie Bowater

Spoilers ahead

Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but sheโ€™s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queenโ€™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 Woodโ€”an ancient forest possessed by soulsโ€”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.

Characters :

Sirscha Ashwyn : She is fierce, loyal, quite sharp-witted, bold and does not hesitate but I think she lacks a little bit of depth. I would have loved to see her training, a bit of her childhood, to see what she was and what she has become. She also has a LOT of self-control, considering what most of the noble soldiers had done to her. I don’t know how I would have put up with these kinds of abuses.

Being born as a commoner, she was given a chance to earn her place. I loved her dedication and her resilience. She was even chosen to enter a « competition » to become Kendara’s apprentice, the royal spy. Throughout the novel, we are privy to her inner struggles of finding her place in the world and what she could bring to it. By the end of the book, she begins to realise that she has her own worth, as a person, and not as a Shadow, a soldier or a Soulguide.

The answer is clear and quick: because I was afraid.
Not for my life. I was afraid of being invisible, a fear I’ve held close from the moment I was old enough to understand that I’d been abandoned with no true name. It’s why I so desperately sought Kendara’s approval. She is the only person besides Saengo who’s ever truly seen me. It’s why I couldn’t allow myself to be beaten in the sparring circle despite that it would have better served me to be underestimated, to be dismissed.
I’d hoped once I secured Kendera’s and the queen’s approval, that irrational part of myself – that childish need to be seen, to be acknowledged – would be appeased.

Saengo : She is the heir of House Phang but chose to train as a soldier to escape her noble life. She seemed interesting but I felt as if she was put on the sidelines while I would have wanted to see her alongside Sirscha which would have strengthened their relationship and brought a bit of tension. I hope to see more of her in The Broken Web.

โ€œWe used to be a teamโ€™ Her voice is soft, but the words still cut. โ€˜Now all I am is a piece of you. A shadow tethered to your soles, looking at your back.โ€

Ronin : He is a several-century-year-old Spiner who fought the Soulless and was able to inject a poison into him to put him into a stasis-like state. Since then, he has been keeping The Dead Wood from growing by using the Soulless’ power. He sacrificed his humanity by eating his spider familiar to protect the peace. But despite his sacrifice to save them, the nations kept on wanting to go to war. Little by little corrupted by the power, he decided to let the nations destroy themselves.

Theyen : He’s a royal Shadowblessed from Kazahyn who helps Sirscha all along the novel. Despite his one-liners and his Mr Know-it-all attitude, our heroine comes to rely on him during several occasions. His motivations and how he fits in the story are still unclear and I hope to see them developed in the next book because he seems interesting enough.

Prince Meilek : He’s portrayed as kind, strong-willed and as good a fighter as Sirscha. There are hints pointing out that he’s against his sister’s policy to persecute the shamans but hasn’t said anything openly. Instead, he goes behind his sister’s back to alleviate their harsh living conditions or free a few of them when possible. By the end of the novel, he also betrays his sister by fighting with Sirscha and the other shamans.

Story :

The world is inspired by Hmong culture and it was great to discover it. I also loved the magic system. In order to have access to magic, shamans have to be linked to a spirit beast during a ceremony during which its soul takes on a solid form. Then, shamans will be able to funnel their magic through them. Inside each element (water, fire, wind, light, dark, etc), there are several categories such as Breathsipher, Sower, Soulguide, Stoneskin, Earthwender, Soulrender, Fleshworker… The glossary at the beginning was really interesting and even included the way some words were said. As a language lover, it’s always a great thing to have !

The Thiy continent is shared between three powers : Eveywn (mostly humans), the Nuvalyn Empire (shamans) and Kazahyn (shadowblessed clans). While we mainly stay in the human kingdom, we are given a bit of information all along the novel (some history, who governs, the political tensions). Discovering a new culture is always something exciting and I hope that the story takes us into one of the two remaining powers.

The crush of so many expectations is matched only by the fear of not measuring up. I press my palms to my temples. Fear is not a wall. It is a whip at my back, driving me onward.

There are a lot of political tensions in the book. The human kingdom has been persecuting shamans because of the empire’s desire to conquer the continent. Most of them were sent to the Valley of Cranes to slave away in a quarry. This desire of conquest was not the only thing which made Eveywn hate the shamans. At one point during the war, one person abused his powers and became the Soulless, a Soulrender who could take the soul from people. But both shamanic powers want to wage a war on Eveywn because of the treatment of shamans. Then, The Dead Wood threatens the three kingdoms and only Ronin has been able to prevent it from expanding.

Speaking of The Dead Wood, the descriptions were really chilling, with people being trapped literally into the trees, some lacking arms, legs, or others having their skull caved in. Gradually, the people caught by the Wood become part of it.

Overall, the book lacks character depth except for Sirscha. Each character brings something to the story and has a distinct personality. The worldbuilding is really fascinating and I hope to see more of it and maybe the other two countries, who knows. Its fast-pace narrative is also one of its good points. The writing is also immersive and vivid.

Noteย : 4ย sur 5.

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