Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

We have reached the last week in my ‘Beyond the Story Challenge.’ I know that not many people participated in the challenge but I had a lot of fun reading new books that I probably wouldn’t have found time to read otherwise. I hope that everyone else has found my book reviews just as fun as I have writing them!

Summary:
Sirscha is nothing. An apprentice to the Shadow, the queen’s royal spy, her whole life depends on coming the kingdom’s next shadow. But her plan is derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend, Saengo.
And then, somehow, Saengo is brought back to life and Sirscha is the first soulguide shaman found in centuries. She is summoned into the Dead Wood to appear in front of the Spider King, the keeper of peace in the kingdoms. But the Dead Wood, an ancient forest possessed by souls, are growing more wild and threaten to take over all the kingdoms. Only a soulguide can tame them and Sirscha must learn to control her power if she wants to save her world.

The Characters:
Sirscha: She has no life. Like actually, she admits it herself. Several times. Her only goal is to become the Shadow and she’s oftentimes like, ‘if I don’t get it…I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to get it.’ She has exactly one friend and a whole lot of enemies because apparently not having parents or a home makes people hate you? And she’s very loyal to her friend but…she doesn’t have much else of a personality. She’s good with dual swords. And NOT good at following orders. That’s all I can really say about her.
Saengo: I liked Saengo much, much more than Sirscha. Unfortunately, with Saengo being sick most of the book and Sirscha going off and doing her own things…we didn’t get to see her much. But she is a very good friend and I hope that, if I read the next book, she’ll be in it more.
Ronin the Spider King: What a name, right? And imagine having a spider king basically controlling all the kingdoms in the world. He lives in the middle of a forest so dangerous that you can’t get through it without him controlling the trees to let you through…unless your name is Sirscha or Theyen, conveniently two pretty prominent characters in the book. All in all, I can’t describe much of Ronin’s personality but I will say that he reminds me a bit of the Darkling…just with less humor. And more mysterious or whatever…if that’s possible. But the similarities are definitely there.
Theyen: He’s the humor and the personality in the book. He’s really the only one with a defining characteristic: completely insufferable. But like, that’s part of the reason why he’s one of the best characters.

The plot:
I…really don’t don’t know to describe the plot. It was….a whole lot. There were a bunch of things that were mentioned once fifty pages ago that Sirscha was supposed to be doing so I didn’t actually know what she was doing most of the time? There were just so many things going on all at once. I also felt, despite the fact that the book is 400 pages long, that it was fairly short once it got going. I know I said there was so much happening at once but I’m going to contradict myself and say that not much happened. Sure, she usually has a goal and is doing something, which is why the plot is kind of confusing, but she spends like half the book in a giant building in the middle of this enchanted forest doing research on….something that was mentioned 50 pages ago, or trying to control her powers. Which she tried like once. The other times she just wandered around doing things. However, despite my harsh words on the plot of this book, I will say that it was still enjoyable to read, and the times that I did understand what was going on were really interesting.

The world building:
I think that part of the reason the plot was so confusing was because of the world building. There are so many places and things mentioned that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Sure, the world is extremely impressive. There’s a really complex magic system, there’s a bunch of kingdoms, there’s this cool-sounding and totally creepy forest…but if we’re not introduced to all these things gradually, it’s really really hard to keep track of everything. We get a few descriptions that border on info dumps at the beginning that describe the world and then we’re just…supposed to figure out what kingdom is what and where when they’re mentioned.

The magic system:
The magic system was info dumped and didn’t do an excellent job explaining it either? I get that there are five central different magics–or possibly six? Is shadows a magic? Sirscha said it wasn’t but then we met people who could magic shadows…anyways. But in those magics, you can do different things. So…Sirscha is a soulguide. She can guide souls to the underworld or back to life. But there’s also a soulrender, who can tear souls out of people and such. And both of those magics are light magics but when you develop powers you only get one specific power. And lots of different powers were mentioned throughout the book but I don’t know what they are or what magic they’re under or anything.

The romance:
Something I liked about this book was that…there was no romance! None. Nothing. Not even a, ‘he looks good in this shirt with his hair tousled,’ or anything like that. No, ‘a warm flutter starts in my stomach.’ It was completely focused on the characters which was a really nice change since I feel like some YA books really have a romance where…there doesn’t need to be one. Where it really changes the story because, ‘Oh, I love you *swoons*’ (no thank you).This was a very nice change.

The representation:
As far as race goes, I believe that all or at least almost all of the characters in this book are Asian. As far as sexuality and gender goes…well there was no romance and nothing about sexuality was mentioned and there are no characters whose pronouns were not she/her or he/him.

Final ratings: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟🌟🌟
Plot: 🌟🌟🌟
World building: 🌟🌟
Romance: N/A
Diversity: 🌟🌟🌟
I’m going to bump up the rating a bit because of the no-romance thing.
Final rating: 3 stars

Book info:
Title: Forest of Souls
Author: Lori M. Lee
Published by: Page Street Kids on June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400

Have you read ‘Forest of Souls’? What did you think about it? Do you want to read it? Did this review sway your opinion in any way? Have you read any of Lori M. Lee’s other books? What did you think of this review? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion as long as you are respectful! I’m always open to a bookish discussion in the comments–I don’t bite! And be sure to check out some of my other posts!
As always, thanks for stopping by. To take the time out of your busy lives to read this post means the world. Stay safe and keep reading!