Spellbound is the best way I can describe what happened to me as I read The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin earlier this year. With a lyrical and enchanting writing style, Kerin creates a world like no other as we get the chance to explore the afterlife and what happens when everything stops and life above goes on.
Publication Date: July 16th 2019
Source: Owned / ARC
Format: Audiobook / e-ARC
Every tree in the sacred Forest of Laida houses a soul. Though each of those souls will return to the mortal world for many future lives, 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 being 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, to protect the family she left behind from beyond the grave. In this story of love, survival, and what it means to be human, Seycia and Haben discover that the Underworld is riddled with secrets that can only be unlocked through complete trust and devotion, not only to their mission, but also to one another.
ARC provided by author & Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review
“In this place meant for the dead, she finally felt the weight of life, of connection, of eternity. Nothing was ever lost.”
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I finally picked up The Phantom Forest, all I knew was that it was a mythological like fantasy and according to my friends–I had to read it. Set in a spellbinding world, the story tells the tale of three lives that are entwined in ways they never expected as each go on a journey of not only self discovery but of change.
I genuinely don’t know how to put into words how beautiful this story was. The way Kerin weaved the different layers of emotions and philosophical views and questions of not only what the afterlife may look like but also of religion and the cultural impact it has–was completely and utterly poignant. I was captivated by Seycia’s journey into the “underworld” and her determination to keep her brother safe even in death. But the one character that stood out the most to me and the one I wanted to protect at all costs, was Haben. Dark, brooding, and deprived of life itself, Haben was someone I genuinely loved reading and getting to see on the page. His arc development, is probably one of the more refined ones in this debut novel–leaving Miko and Seycia’s for the following novel, I presume.
Like any other fantasy novel, this story does take some time getting used to, but gosh dolly when it delivers–it delivers. There are so many layers to this, that I could take years combing through it all. Kerin does an outstanding job with this story and I honestly can’t wait to see how everything plays out in the next book. With lyrically rich worldbuilding, and riveting characters, this story is something not easily put down, and even harder to forget. If you are in the mood for a nice dance into the afterlife, I highly suggest you grab yourself a copy of this one. 10/10 would recommend this book to everyone and their mother. It’s that good.
Huge thank you to Netgalley and the author for sending me an ARC for my honest review! Quotations taken from final copy.