Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Danger lurks within the roots of Forest of Souls, an unrelenting tale of destiny and sisterhood, the first in an epic fantasy duology for fans of Susan Dennard and Naomi Novak.
Sirscha Ashwyn comes from nothing, but she’s intent on becoming something. After years of training to become the queen’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 lightwender in living memory, Sirscha is summoned to the domain of the Spider King. For centuries, he has used his influence over the Dead Wood—an ancient forest possessed by souls—to enforce peace between the kingdoms. Now, with the trees growing wild and untamed, only a lightwender 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.
Sirscha isn’t exactly liked due to her status as an orphan. She’s bullied, taunted, and punished by her alleged superiors constantly. She only joined the Queen’s company because of her mentor Kendara. Her only true friend is Saengo Phang who is the heir to the House of Phang. On a routine journey operation, a fight breaks out between some Shamanborn. Saengo is dealt a mortal blow resulting in her death while Sirscha’s troll bone talisman saves her. Sirscha takes things into her own hands and does the unthinkable; she accidentally brings her back to life. After Sirscha brings Saengo back to life, her eyes change color from amber to gray. Shamanborn have gray eyes.
This is not a good thing for Sirscha. Shamanborn have been outlawed by Queen Evewyn’s because of ignorance and fear. Another one of Sirscha’s supposed allies is Prince Melia Sancor who is the Queen’s brother who appears many times to help Sirscha along the way. He has some issues with who Sirscha is for a time, but I think it’s fair to say that his eyes have literally been opened to what his sister has been doing. He needs to make some seriously hard choices in either turning Sirscha over to his sister or helping her avert a catastrophic war in the making.
Sirscha travels all the way to the lair of Ronin, the Spider King who has been entrusted to maintain peace within the kingdom of Thiy. As she learns more about the mysterious power hidden within herself, she also sets in motion a series of events that could be the doom of her beloved home. Sirscha learns some stunning truths about her. She is a Soulrender- one who can rip the soul out of a person's body or who can bring them back from the dead. She must learn to master her elemental powers and help the Spider King control the soul in the creepy Dead Wood.
She must face the truths that she will no longer remain Kendara’s apprentice or go on to become the Queen’s Shadow. Sirscha is a decent main character. She’s your familiar good-with-a-sword-and-show-no-emotion protagonist. There’s a twist at the end of the book that could lead Sirscha down a dark path, and I’m hoping the author takes it. It’s totally fine with me when an author chooses to allow her character to discover the darkness in them before making a final chose of whether to be good or deviously evil.