[ARC Review] Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Hey everyone! I’m not putting much content out this month but I did want to post my review for Forest of Souls. I got invited to participate in Hear Our Voices’ book tour for this story and I wanted to help promote a fantastic Ownvoices author.

rating: ☾ ☾ ☾ ☾ ☾ {5/5}
publication date: june 23rd, 2020
rep: Southeast Asian inspired characters & setting
age range: teen (13+)
Check out the pre-order incentives here!

Find it: Book Depository | Indiebound | Bookshop | Amazon | Goodreads

summary: 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.

Thanks to Lauren Cepero at Page Street Kids for sending me an e-ARC to review via Netgalley!

“You simply fight with all the fire in your being.”

Initial Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I read a YA fantasy that’s truly blown me away. Lori M. Lee took everything I love about fantasy and put it into the masterpiece that is Forest of Souls. It’s got the complex politics and world state, a painstakingly beautiful magic system, and characters that readers will fall in love with. The entire time I read this book, I was constantly thinking about how this was a book I wished I had during middle school.


One of the best parts of this book was how relationship driven it was. From the start, Sirscha and Saengo’s bond captivates you; it’s clear that the two of them would do anything to protect the other one. As a reader, I really enjoy books that focus on sisterly bonds and let the girls protect each other and kick butt. There was no romance at all and I found it incredibly refreshing! I loved that Sirscha’s priorities were saving Saengo and then maybe saving the world. Now don’t get me wrong, there are two male characters that are interesting in their own ways, but narratively they serve as Sirscha’s allies and I greatly enjoyed seeing those friendships develop over the book as well. For once in my life I can’t choose a favorite either; Meilek and Theyen both had fun personalities. It’s a crime I have to wait so long before I get more content about them.

World Building

No one, absolutely NO ONE is doing world building like Lori M. Lee. She put so much thought into how she wanted the politics of her world to play out. Each of the kingdoms have these unique features and political motivations that make them stand out, making it easy for readers to follow along as politics are discussed throughout the book. Plus as the book nears the end, a lot of unexpected political moves come into play and as suddenly all the history discussed in the books starts to make the political motivations more clear.

Magic System

Another strength of this book was the magic system. Lee does a great job of creating this huge world with different kingdoms and then giving each kingdom unique magic types to set them apart. While we don’t get scenes with ALL the magic systems in play, there’s lot of discussion about how the magic ties into the politics of each realm. Which then influences how the different realms interact with each other. I enjoyed that the magic and the politics of the world were so closely intertwined throughout the story an it made the setting more interesting.

Finding a Place Where You Belong

It’s a recurring theme throughout the novel that Sirscha desperately wants to belong somewhere. She constantly assessing her decisions to see if they would help her get credibility from her mentor, even when said mentor is nowhere to be seen. Since the target audience of this book is teenagers, I thought it was incredibly fitting that its main themes are ones of being accepted and finding a place to belong. While many teenagers aren’t dealing with problems on the same level as Sirscha, it’s easy to relate to her struggle of feeling left out. The book doesn’t end with specific answer either, since its a trilogy, it leaves a lot more room to explore this specific theme in the next novels. However, Sirscha is constantly coming back to Saengo and doing things to help her survive, so I’d argue that the bonds of friendship are what truly helps Sirscha find belonging. Finding someone, even just one person who understands your soul, is worth risking your life for. That’s what makes this book so powerful. That is why I am ordering multiple copies of this book to sit on my classroom shelf.


This was a PHENOMENAL debut story. I enjoyed every aspect of it and I cannot wait to see what will happen next. If you’re interested in seeing more Forest of Souls content check out the rest of the tour schedule over at Hear Our Voices’ post.

About the AUTHOR

Lori M. Lee is the author of FOREST OF SOULS, first in the Shamanborn series, as well as GATES OF THREAD AND STONE and THE INFINITE. She’s also a contributor to the anthologies A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS and COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES. She considers herself a unicorn aficionado, enjoys marathoning TV shows, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family.

8 thoughts on “[ARC Review] Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

  1. I’m on the edge of my seat for the release day of Forest of Souls!! I’m seriously so excited to get myself a copy as soon as I am able but until then, I enjoy reading reviews of the book and yours was so much fun! I can really feel your enthusiasm from your review and I’m glad you loved this ✨

    Liked by 1 person

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