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.
As someone who’s not the biggest fan of spiders (I would say I don’t like them but I want to respect them), I was very excited for a book with a spider plot in it. Ever since I saw the cover, I’ve wanted to read this book. I mostly knew that there was a Spider King and that’s basically it. But that was enough to make me want to read it! Trigger warnings: gore, body horror
I don’t know why, but I was surprised when I fell in love with this book. But it’s SO GOOD. A lot about it surprised me and most of those things I was surprised that I was surprised. The point is, this book is incredible.
This book was so much more horrifying than I thought it was going to be. It was horror elements and wow, does it seriously lean into them. Lee’s writing digs it’s claws into your gut and twists. There were multiple times where I was just horrified at what happening, but in the best ways. There’s a lot of gore and body horror sometimes, but I can’t help but be in awe in how it was executed.
It’s dark and it’s She’s also a genius at creating a quiet air of uneasiness. The quite parts were some of the best. The parts where you know something is inherently wrong, the parts where something is right off in the corner of your eye, where something is scuttling past you. It was amazing. Seriously, there’s a scene towards the end that leans on the quiet tension. The whispers and the tiredness. It doesn’t have to be explosive to land an impact. It was just so incredibly well done.
I also really, really loved Sirscha. She’s stubborn and she’s proud and she wants to be seen. But she’s also scared and doesn’t quite know where she fits. She made for an incredible narrator.
Her emotional development kind of snuck up on me. It wasn’t bad at all. Sure, I would have liked for it me to woven in more throughout, but it kind of works in how this book is laid out. There is so much happening that the little seeds being planted and blossoming later works well. Plus, it lands close to home for me and it was just something that made my heart glow a little bit.
There’s also a top notch female friendship! Saengo might be kind of a minor character, but I sure did love her a whole lot. I also loved every single other character. They added so much depth and they were all incredibly unique.
This book doesn’t hold back any punches. There’s tons of sword fighting and it’s brutal. Sometimes the things that happen feel like you yourself got punched. There were multiple times where my eyes just shot open and I had to just stare at the page for a bit.
The writing felt a bit weird at times. I had to fall into the rhythm to it before it stopped feeling a bit off. But once I did, everything flowed really well!
This book also doesn’t have a romance, which is something I really liked. There were multiple times I thought something might come up, but it really did focus on the plot and everything that was happening.
I also really liked the world. I couldn’t quite get my head around the politics and the makeup sometimes, but I feel like that’s because Sirscha was kind of removed from it. This world was incredible, but Sirscha has her own things to worry about. I really liked how she couldn’t do absolutely everything. She was fighting for what she could control and left the other things to other people. It allowed the world to grow in a really cool way.
The magic system, along with the Dead Wood, were seriously amazing. Just, I feel like this book just scratched the surface and I can’t wait to know more. The Dead Wood is terrifying. The magic system holds tons of secrets related to the Dead Wood. AND IT’S JUST REALLY REALLY GOOD.
Just, this book surprised me. I love Sirscha and I love the magic and I love the world and darkness to it. It’s a book that leaves you craving more. It’s really, really good!
Thank you for reading!