Cover Image: Forest of Souls

Forest of Souls

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This is a solid fantasy with interesting world building.  I liked how this first book in the series focused on friendships rather than having the main character find insta-love (as so many YA books tend to do) as that would have detracted from the overall story.  Political intrigue, fun actions scenes, and a creepy villain along with that beautiful, fierce book cover will make this an easy book to recommend to fantasy loving teens.
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Lori M. Lee once again brings us a truly unique fantasy world. 

Forest of Souls will be enjoyed by both young adult and adult readers as it doesn't follow the typical, prescriptive format of current YA Fantasy.
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I really wanted to love this, but sadly I didn't enjoy this as much as I wanted to. I felt like Sirscha was a very immature character, despite how she was being trained as the Shadow's apprentice. Yet, she thought she knew better and wouldn't listen to hardly anyone, especially when it came to her powers. Plus her friendship with Saengo felt very surface level and I didn't care for them very much. The plot also felt messy with focusing on one plot point, then switch to a different plot point a few different times. I never felt invested in the story, since things never dug deeper to know the truth with the villain. The ending was kinda frustrating with how easy it was for Sirscha to do what she wanted and another thing that I won't spoil. I will say that the world building was really good, with the different shaman powers, their crafts and some of the legends that were mentioned. I'm glad that I tried this but this wasn't for me. But I think that young teens that are starting to get into fantasy would like this.
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Unusual and enjoyable. A bit of a rocky start with a six (!) page glossary and a lot of info-dump at the beginning - a difficult thing to avoid in fantasy - but the story is solid and intriguing. I'm still not completely clear on the internal politics, but I look forward to the sequel!
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I ended up feeling pretty neutral about this book while reading it, as there were both things I liked and disliked. 

While I liked the concepts in this book, the plot felt messy and scattered at times, and a lot of the plot was generic. The elements of the book that were unique felt barely expanded upon. I like tropes! But I usually like when they’re still written in a compelling way or offer something a little bit new. 

I did like the focus on female friendship! Saengo and Sirscha truly have a deep bond, though I wish that Saengo would have more of a role than to be a friend. I liked Sirscha’s backstory, she comes from humble beginnings and is treated poorly for it (she gets punished for mistakes she and Saengo make together because Saengo is of higher status) but has to keep her head down because she has higher dreams and motivations. Her backstory and motivations are understandable and sympathetic as well as realistic. That being said, I never felt like I truly connected to any of the characters. I think that this series has potential so I will be continuing with book 2 once it is released.
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This was an engaging and quick read — the protagonist is driven and competent, and the world is a good mix of magic and political intrigue (yes! My favorite!). I think this book does a really good job of intertwining the magical complications with the political ones, rather than keeping those storylines separate. My only critiques of this book are largely due to personal preference: I'm not a huge fan of the "chosen one/unique magic" trope, and I felt the beginning (like many YA fantasies) was too abrupt. I would have liked to follow the protagonist around in her daily life a little more before she sets off on the journey.
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I appreciate the glossary at the beginning but that wasn’t something i would ask for. I wish the author explained everything as the story goes instead because not all of us want to memorize a glossary before getting into a book :(
I couldn’t really enjoy the book at first because i was confused especially with the lack of explanation but when i caught up with everything, it was actually really great. 

I personally really liked the plot, conflict, and world-building of this book, the magic system was fine but a bit too similar to what i’ve read before. It reminded me so much of Avatar The Legend of Aang which is my favorite and i won’t complain about that.

Sirscha was a such an interseting character and i’m so excited to dig deeper into her character maybe in the next book! I think all the secondary characters had so much potential and it’s sad that they didn’t get too involved in the actions in this. I wasn’t fully drawn to the characters but at the end i cared about them more than i care to admit. 

Overall, i enjoyed this book and i’m excited to find more about these characters especially with how this book ended.

Thank you Page Street Kids for the review copy!
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First, thank you to PageStreet Kids and Lori Lee for a copy of this arc for an honest review!

I really really enjoyed this read!!  Lori did an amazing job world building and making you connect with her characters. The magic aspect was unique and I am hoping book 2 we get a deeper look into it.  Overall, it was a great read and I’m excited for book 2 to see what direction this story goes!
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This book was a great read! Fast-paced, adventurous, has a fantastic worldbuilding plus several twists and turns. I have a lot more thoughts, but those are gonna have to wait.

Full review will be posted soon as part of Forest of Souls Blog Tour hosted by The FFBC.
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(Posted to Goodreads) It's been a minute since a series starter actually made me really hungry for the next book. This one did. Maybe that's because the magic of wielding elements hit me perfectly as I watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. Or maybe it's because Lee is as skilled at crafting characters as she is at building a world.

Other notables and things I found refreshing: women in control without it being A Thing; no love triangles; solid bond of female friendship; main character who can fight but also has decent decision-making skills; haunted woods; action without being overstuffed; Magic Orphan™️.

Planned Coverage: 
BOOK RIOT: Fantasies with Elemental Magic
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This is my first time reviewing a book from Netgalley and what a book to start with. Forrest of Souls has such rich characters that you can’t help but fall in love with them and cheer for them when they succeed and worry for them when they falter. 

The world building and lore of magic in this book is incredibly detailed and I would happily join Sirscha in reading books on all the different crafts with Theyen in the library. 

If you’re a fan of The Witcher, A Darker Shade of Magic ( Sirscha has big Lila Bard energy ) and The Grishaverse then I highly recommend this book for you.
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3 🌟 

The magic system was very unique and interesting. I thought that the characters were likeable and It had very well done world building. Overall it was a brilliant fantasy book
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I really enjoyed this book! The magic system gave me major Witchlands/Avatar vibes so I was drawn into the world almost immediately. I really appreciated how female friendship was at the core of the book and loved Sirscha and Saengo's relationship. I could have used a bit more development in all the characters though, so hopefully that's something we'll get in the second book.
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Forest of Souls grabs you from the very start and does not let you go even at the end. Lee does a fantastic job of introducing the world Sirscha lives in and to what lengths one will go to to protect a best friend. This book is full of magic and an unrelenting adventure so be prepared to sucked in and ignore everything else around you until you get the end of this book, then take a deep breath and realize you have to wait like the rest of us to jump back into the world of Thiy.

I was provided with an electronic ARC through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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I've been quite disappointed in a number of recent YA fantasy reads, so I was quite nervous going into this one. But I am absolutely enthralled with this world! Forest of Souls is an action packed, fast paced, creepy forest driven fantasy. I can definitely see where the comp to Naomi Novik comes from, this felt very reminiscent of Uprooted, which I also loved. I'm so happy this turned out to be just as exciting as I wanted. 

Forest of Souls is a magic driven world, with shamans born into 5 seperate callings. Sircha discovers she is a lightwender when her best friend dies in battle, and then Sircha brings her back to life. Ronin, an incredibly powerful shaman who is the only thing keeping three kingdoms from ouright war, summons Sircha to the Dead Wood. The Dead Wood is a terrifying, alive forest where trapped souls strain to be free. He wants Sircha's help to control the souls to ensure he remains all powerful enough to keep the kingdoms from war. 

It's definitely a complex plot and world that isn't as common in YA, and is something more usually seen in adult fantasy (which could be why I enjoyed this so much since I'm on a very strong adult fantasy binge right now). There is a huge magic system, lots of history regarding Ronin and the Dead Wood creation, and the history and politics of the three kingdoms, all of which need to be explained to really understand what's happening. Because of the amount of information needed, it's hard to avoid info-dumps, but I found them really intriguing and interesting. I think this was particularly helped by the voice of our main character, Sircha. This book is first person POV, all told by Sircha. She has a very easy and accessible voice, so the info dumps didn't really feel like you were being overwhelmed with lots of information, it was really easy to get through and find out about the world. 

The book is absolutely action packed and is very fast paced, which I really enjoyed. I absolutely raced through the book. There's lots of new information and twists that help the surging of the plot. I think it's definitely more of an action driven narrative than character driven. There's not huge amounts of time to get to know the side characters because Sircha is charging all over the place trying to save her kingdom. It's a very different kind of fantasy to what I usually read (heavy character driven books), but I still found it thoroughly enjoyable. 

Of the characters, I do have a soft spot for Ronin. Troubled, brooding characters are just the best. He doesn't spend huge amounts of time on page but he still manages to have such a presence when we see him. Between him and the atmosphere from the woods, I think that's what gave me the very strong Novik vibes. Which I am not complaining about at all because I love this vibe. The forest is a really scary and creepy place, the faces on the trees screaming 'Run' is definitely an image I'm not going to forget for a while! 

All in all, I really enjoyed this read! It's very different to the fantasy I usually read, but I thought it was a really well written, fast paced, action centric fantasy, with a really fun voice and full of lots of atmospheric dead forests and brooding men! It's definitely one of my favourite YA fantasies of the year so far!
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Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

I have contrasted feelings about this book, I was actually surprised in a good way by it but at the same time I felt confused about other things.

Let's go with the pros first: It was extremely innovative and unlike any other books.
The magical system is not the most complex I ever read but I really liked the 'shaman' component and their division, it reminded me a little bit of the grisha orders. Also the connection between Shamans and their familiars was fashinating.
So was the entire Dead Wood concept and its connection with the souls.
Another thing I really appreciated is that despite having some typical tropes of the YA books not everything went as I was expecting and for that I want to give the author a huge applause.

On the other hand I found the world building a little bit confusing, there are so many reigns and royals and I just couldn't place all of the them. I don't know if it was me but for this I had some difficulty to follow all the political part, which is already complex by itself, there's a lot going on!
Another 'problem' I found is that the plot suggested the presence of a strong friendship and there is indeed, the protagonist obviously care about her but friend but at the same time I feel like it could have been developed better. 
I wanted a focus on Sirscha and Saengo but instead we get only Sirscha with a few appearances of the second one.

To conclude, I recommend you to try to read it! It certainly has his flaws but I like where this story is going, the end definitely made me want to read the sequel especially because I feel the story will become more spicy and dark!
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When I saw that this book was going to be a medieval fantasy inspired by Hmong shaman culture with a Charlie Bowater cover I knew I knew that I definitely needed to read it. And it did not disappoint! I thought the magic system was interesting, it kind of reminded me of Avatar: The Last Airbender, with a spy/assassin in training MC and political intrigue that reminded of Throne of Glass. It might sound like a weird combination but it worked! Lots of exciting action, the Dead Wood is delightfully creepy, and some twists at the end that I didn't see coming, which make me really excited (and impatient) for the next one.

I love that the foundational relationship is between Sirscha and her best friend Saengo; the two girls come from extremely different backgrounds but I loved their sisterhood bond. I hope we get to see more of Saengo, Meilik, and Theyen in the next one, as well as learn more about Sirscha's backstory now that she knows the truth about her magic. The only flaw is that I wish there was more world-building and that some characters were more fleshed out. I would totally read a prequel about Sirscha and Saengo at the Prince's Company, and then her spy training with Kendara while in the Queen's Company. I definitely want to read more by this author.
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Thank you to Page Street Publishing for an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

We meet Sirscha Ashwyn, a girl who is determined to be the next Shadow to the Queen of Evewyn. Training with the current Shadow, Kendara, she strives to be the student she ultimately picks to be named the successor of the title. Sirscha is an orphan who is part of the military academy, bullied for having no name and no family, but she is determined to prove that even without all of that, she can be a great Shadow to serve her kingdom.

Sirscha finds out that one of her classmates in the academy is also a protege of Kendara as she finds a letter that has a task for him. In fear of losing the chance to be the Shadow, she with her friend Saengo, goes to the location in hopes of carrying out the mission herself. She runs into a band of shamans which starts and scuffle that leads to Saengo's death. Sirscha then awakes her power as she brings her friend's soul back. All of a sudden, Sirscha has been summoned by Ronin the Spider King and tells her that she is a soulguide, a rare and powerful shaman that carries the souls of the dead to their rest. Ronin asks for Sirscha's help in taming the Dead Wood, a forest that is festered with unrested souls as his powers can no longer control the wilderness that was spreading. This ultimately leads Sirscha to secrets that she was never prepared for, a dangerous task that she must live up to, save her best friend's life from being claimed by the forest, and stop a war between kingdoms.

Forest of Souls was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020 and I am so honored to have been granted an advance copy of the book. The author mentioned that this book, according to her own definitions, is not an Asian Fantasy but it is Asians in Fantasy. It's a mishmash of her favorite western fantasy tropes alongside bits of her own cultural influences and a magical system inspired by Hmong Shamanism which absolutely got me interested.

First, Lori Lee's writing is brilliant and stimulating. There was a good balance of banter and narrative that the worldbuilding parts were not that heavy to get through. The first half of the book felt a little dragged out though, I was at 30% of the story when I still wasn't attached to the characters and was feeling a little impatient. There were a few scenes that also felt too long that could have been cut back a little. Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed Lori Lee's writing style.

The world building is very strong and remarkable. She made the world very vivid and had no trouble in capturing a reader to be transported into the world immediately. It was very striking and the basics are completely laid out in front of you, from the culture, practices, religion, it was all there and the world felt so believable and whole. The magic system is also simple enough and established quite well. I really liked the idea of elemental powers, familiars, and shamans. 

Throughout the story we are in the first person perspective of Sirscha, and even if that was so, I felt like we only saw a surface level of who she was. She was determined, a little bit impulsive, and fiercely loyal but beyond that I'm craving for a little more from her. Same goes for Saengo, Prince Meilik, Theyen, Kendara and the others. We see a surface level of these characters but not enough for me to get attached to them. Although, I did hear that Forest of Souls is a trilogy, I'm excited to see where Lori Lee takes her characters and how they will develop in the next two books.

Forest of Souls is a thrilling story that is full of secrets, mystery, giant webs and spiders, a dark and forlorn forest, and plot twists that will leave you riveting in your seat. I highly suggest you pick it up as well!
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So I will start off by saying that it appears one chapter was cut off in the middle, so I assume I got the full story, but I'm not so sure. Based on what I read, I really liked the story. It gave me Wicked Saints vibes, except instead of Gods in your head, you are the God? Or at least close enough. I thought the plot and the storytelling was great. The characters were interesting, but I wanted more development of Ronin and Saengo - two major/minor (not totally sure) characters who felt one dimensional. Saengo served the role of faithful best friend while Ronin served the role of mysterious master, who could be friend or foe. 

Either way, besides those two characters, I thought the book was awesome. The storytelling was great and the plot lived up to my expectations. We end in a place where book 2 can occur and I would be happy to read it when it comes out. If you like chosen one stories, magic, dark fantasy, and morally grey characters - you will love Forest of Souls!
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I'm sad to say that this book didn't captivate me as much as I wished it would. This was a review that I procrastinated HEAVILY on because I was disappointed that I couldn't enjoy this book as much as I'd hoped diving in. ( Partially because of the stunning cover, I must admit. Charlie Bowater always manages to blow me away with his artwork. Now, this is in no shape or form me saying I disliked the author, I understand that this is her debut. The reason why this fell flat to me was mostly because of the characters and the plot.

The basic rundown of the story: The book follows Sirscha, an orphan girl who is enrolled in a training school to (hopefully) become the Queen's Shadow. Which is essentially a spy for the queen. And for this role, you guessed it, she needs to compete for the role of Kendra's apprentice. Because she's an orphan she gets bullied by these rich people, later she reads a letter that wasn't addressed to her. Turns out her bully is a student of Kendra and is assigned to go on a "secret" spy mission. Siracha is horrified that her bully could possibly beat her for the role of the Queen's Shadow and decides to tag along. (Secretly of course.) And oh no! Things ACTUALLY go wrong! Who would've thought! *cough cough* Then she finds out she's Shanaborn and a Lightrender. *face palm* Now to explain this, there are basically renders of each element. Soul, Light, Fire, Water, Wind, Earth. (Each with "render" attached to their ends) Then the Spider King is like "oh yo, I need your help bc you're a lightrender" and of course she listens. Then there are some secrets that she gets trapped in, because the Dark Wood is oh so dark and scary.

Let's start with the characters. I personally felt that Sirscha was SO DRY. I felt that she wasn't relatable, and her personality was so superficial. Her mind never really wandered away from Saengo or the plot. I couldn't find myself actually rooting for her, or the other characters which eventually made me not only distant to the characters, but also the book itself. This also goes for the secondary characters, I honestly wouldn't care if they poofed mid-way through the book. ( Except for Theyen, he was a KING through and through. The carried the cast of this novel. Who doesn't love an energetic character who's sass levels shoot through the roof? *wipes a tear* Too bad he was rarely shown through the book. )

I- the whole intrigue in the synopsis revolved around her best friend Saengo dying, but is it bad to say that I really couldn't care less about his death? Yeah, his character was kind of bland.

Now, let's chat about the Magic system. I feel like she had so much potential to really delve deeper into the magic, and the story behind it. I didn't really get a sense of understanding or awe. Sirshca really only used her powers, what, a few times at the most. Isn't the whole plot basically about how she uses her Lightrending skills to solve the chaos in the Dark Forest? Maybe there's some explanation, but it wasn't explained in the book. There wasn't any development in the magic at all, no struggles or conflict that comes with wielding magic. It seems almost too easy for Sirshca to minimally use her powers and somehow have nothing go wrong? There were literally no rules in this magic, which is so unrealistic because why is it that only Sirshca is so powerful if the magic comes without practice?

The world was so shallowly discussed that I feel like it was a lack of opportunity to build on the intrigue of this magic, politics, this "evil" and why it is a problem. Instead, there are sloppy answers that are so simple and take away from the depth of the world.

The plot was messy to me. I wish it was more strung together, and it wasn't just scattered in little shards. I really don't want to have to search for little pieces of the plot just to forget again. I only really understood the plot at the end.


-Dragons were also a part of this world apparently? There was barely any descriptions other than its color, and that they wear a saddle. Only later do we discover its a bipedal dragon, that's literally the only detail about them.
-I- it seems that the characters have found a way to teleport because the time they take to travel across this gigantic land seems way too short to be taken realistically.
-There wasn't really much conversation. Many times throughout the book, the author would state she had these conversations without actually showing the dialogue.
-The cliff-hanger was the only redeeming part of the book, I mean, it's intriguing for sure.
-The Sanctuary of the Sisters seems interesting, I wonder if it will be covered in the next few books.
-Why did this book take me so long to write a review on? LMAO

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