TITLE: The Phantom Forest
Author: Liz Kerin
Release date: July 16th, 2019.
Genre: YA epic fantasy
Trigger warning: mild gruesome descriptions
(ARC sent courtesy of Inkshares and Liz Kerin).
THE PHANTOM FOREST is one of those rare books that will have you thinking about it days after you’ve finished reading. From the emotional journeys the main characters go through, to the incredible world-building, THE PHANTOM FOREST is a haunting tale that will captivate you from page one. It is beautifully written and the mythology introduced is unique and like no other YA book I have read before. I predict that Liz Kerin’s debut novel will be the next hit book among young adult fans.
Here’s a short summary taken from Amazon:
Every tree in the sacred Forest of Laida houses a soul. And each of those souls will return to the mortal world for many future lives. But not all of them deserve to.
Seycia’s father told her this story as a child―a story of the most holy place in the Underworld, the Forest of Laida, where all souls go to rest before embarking on a new life. But Seycia’s father is dead now, and his killer has put a target on her back.
After she is chosen for her village’s human sacrifice ritual, Seycia is transported to the Underworld and must join forces with Haben, the demon to whom she was sacrificed. Together, they journey to the forest in the Underworld where all souls grow in a quest to destroy the tree of the man who killed her.
If you aren’t already hooked, I hope you will be by the end of this review. I can’t profess my love enough for THE PHANTOM FOREST. It was dark, rich, spooky, mysterious, intriguing, captivating, deathly, and overall, a beautiful story. To top it all off, it has one of the most genuine romances I’ve ever read.
If I’m honest, I have never been a fan of YA books that have more of a horror or dark vibe, but THE PHANTOM FOREST has completely changed me. Bring on the dark books, because I haven’t enjoyed a story this much in a while. I stayed up past two the first night I started this book – I couldn’t stop reading it.
Let’s talk a little about the main characters and what is interesting about them:
Seycia is a girl whose parents were killed by General Simeon, the man who rules their “city.” When Simeon shows up in the city and recognizes Seycia as the girl who he let escape on the day of their murder, he wants her brought to his manor. Seycia fights back, and as punishment, is forced to become the sacrifice to Dohv (think a Satan-like figure). When Seycia reaches the Underworld, she is found by a mysterious demon called Haben. Together, they make a pact to journey to the Forest of Laida to destroy Simeon’s tree (which houses his soul), and to destroy Haben’s so he can finally be at peace. But things happen along the way that cause a change in the plan set forth by Seycia and Haben, and their new feelings for each other prove to be dangerous since Dohv is always watching. [No spoilers, I promise!] She is a strong girl, but not kick-a$$ like what seems to be the norm now. Not that I have anything against that, but I liked that she had flaws and was still discovering her strength and what she could accomplish on her own.
Haben is a demon who is forced by Dohv to accept the sacrifices that General Simeon offers to him. He wishes to escape his horrible fate, so when Seycia comes along, he decides to spare her. I can’t say much about Haben, other then the fact that he is a sad soul. He isn’t like the swoony men that seem to predominate YA literature right now. He is conflicted and flawed, and handsome in his own way. What I liked best about Haben and Seycia’s eventual relationship is that it is natural, and Seycia doesn’t see Haben’s flaws or scars, but sees the man that he used to be and believes that he still feels like that.
Miko is Seycia’s brother and tries to stop General Simeon from taking Seycia. The two are very close. The story does shifts to two points of view, where we see Miko’s attempt to band together with other village members to attack Simeon and stop his reign of terror. His events eventually coincide with what Seycia is doing in the Underworld, and we see both their chapters intertwine toward the end. The only single thing I wasn’t a fan of throughout the book was going back to Miko’s POV. I was so enthralled with Seycia’s journey that I didn’t want to stop reading about it. As the action picked up, though, I really enjoyed reading how Miko and Seycia’s stories weaved together.
(The reason I put “mild gruesome descriptions” for the trigger warning is because the book does go into detail about what happens when Haben’s evil demon form receives its first sacrifice, but it is only about half a page. There is also a scene where a demon is being “tortured” by scarab beetles, but again, it is only half a page. By skipping over these scenes, you really don’t miss anything important. So, if you don’t feel comfortable reading them, you won’t miss anything important to the plot. I was fine with this, but I figured I’d better put this for others.)
If I had to say what books THE PHANTOM FOREST was like, it would be these: it’s like THE HUNGER GAMES was set 200 years earlier and people still believed in magic, the demons from THE SCREWTAPE letters were more modernized for this time period, the epic journey through Mordor from LORD OF THE RINGS is extended, we get a more twisted glimpse into the Underworld from HERCULES, and it twists in certain mythological elements from history. Basically, THE PHANTOM FOREST can appeal to people of all different ages because it has these themes that weave in and out of the story; and people who may have not read a book like this can relate it to other portions from different books.
It is harder to write a review without any spoilers, but I think that you all need to read this book for yourself so you can see just how incredible it is. The writing is beautiful and like I mentioned before, the story is so captivating. I know I’ve already talked about the romance, but it was superb. It wasn’t forced, it was natural, and the way that they genuinely grow to care for each other is lovely. Again, no spoilers, but the ending destroyed me. You’ll have to read it for yourself to see what happens!
All-in-all, I predict great things for THE PHANTOM FOREST. The story is vividly haunting, and will stay with you for days. I highly recommend it to any fan of young adult literature. I hope that THE PHANTOM FOREST will get the hype it deserves!
THE PHANTOM FOREST receives 5 stars out of 5.