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 soulguide 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 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.
Susan and I are kind of nailing this buddy read thing! This is our third one, and we already have another 3 lined up for next month. This was a highly anticipated read for both of us, and though it fell flat in parts, I definitely enjoyed the book as a whole. As ever with the whole time zone shenanigans Susan’s post will be a little later than mine, but I’ll link it here as soon as its posted. (Susans post.)
Sirscha is essentially a nobody. No parents, no one knows where she comes from. The only things that keep her going are her best friend Saengo and the chance to become the Queens next royal spy. So when she feels her chances to become a whisper is fading, she follows her competition into what is supposed to be an exchange of information, only there are Shamens awaiting them and in the ensuing battle the unthinkable happens. One of the Shamens kills Saengo. Distraught with grief Sirscha is not aware what is happening until she wakes up to find Saengo alive and well. Finding out she is a Shamen is shocking enough, but add to that finding out she is the only Soulguide to be seen for hundreds of years and Sirscha is awash with expectations she is unsure she can meet. But then Saengo falls ill and now Sirscha not only has the weight of the kingdoms on her back, but that of saving the life of her best friend. Her friends are few and she has a growing number of enemies, but when Sirsha unveils the true horror behind the Dead Wood she soon realises her biggest enemy and battle have yet to reveal themselves.
I really enjoyed reading the book from Sirscha’s POV. Going from being a no body, to suddenly becoming the most talked about Shamen in the Kingdom is a little unnerving, and we see her internal struggle with this through most of the book. She is snarky and quick to fight, but she also knows that to live up to expectations she needs to accept the changes that have happened and grow into her power. She constantly questions her decisions and though at some points she did this a little too much, I think it showed how eager she was to not let people down. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters in the book weren’t as well developed. For a character driven story line, I didn’t feel like the author gave them enough page time to become characters within their own rights, and it seemed their parts only served to further Sirscha’s story.
The world the author builds and the atmosphere it gives off is brilliantly rendered. She brings her world to life with little historical anecdotes and info drops throughout the story, but she weaves them into the plot without giving us massive info dumps. We learn all about the magic system, the different types of Shamen’s and the shadowblessed, where there powers derive from and their history, and she also leaves little hints throughout the story that come together for an unforgettable ending.
One of the most refreshing things about this book is there was no romance! This is such a rare thing in fantasy nowadays and I honestly enjoyed not having the whole ‘who will end up with who’ mantra going through my head. It instead focuses mainly on the relationship between Sirscha and Saengo, how their friendship survives even though they come from polar opposite backgrounds and how Sirscha will do anything to protect her, even if it means risking her own life.
This is definitely a book filled to the brim with plot twists. I had some slightly out there theories… all of which were proved wrong, but the author manages to keep you guessing throughout. Who is the bad guy? Why is Ronin’s power waning over the dead wood? I was constantly questioning who I could trust, and I for one did not see the ending coming.
The first half of this book had me hooked to the pages, and the in the second half it went off the rails a little. I feel like this book could have been fleshed out a little more. It felt like it was overly rushed in parts, the side characters weren’t given enough page time to make their actions later in the book fully understandable and at times I felt like Saengo was mainly there to explain Sirscha’s power and emotional state. BUT, the shocking ending ensured that I was intrigued enough to carry on with the series and am certainly eager to see where the author will take the story with book 2.
What Kind of Shamen do you turn into when you have PMS?
HAHA well if you asked my family and friends probably a Soulrender, someone with the power to rip the souls out of living things!
What animal would you choose as your familiar?
Hmmm. I think I would like a bird, like a Peregrine Falcon or some kind of Eagle. They would be super handy for scouting ahead and warning me of any trouble, plus they would come in pretty handy in a battle.
If you liked… you will like Forest of Souls.
This book gave me series Uprooted vibes. Also Incendiary with the whole MC with a rare and dangerous power.