The Phantom Forest
Author: Liz Kerin
Publication Date: 16 July 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
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.
Liz Kerin’s debut novel The Phantom Forest is both a dark fantasy and post apocalyptic novel. 200 years prior, humans finally unveiled the secret of what happens to souls after humans die. This lead to the apocalyptic war, which practically decimated the planet. Survivors of the war rebuilt the city, which is controlled by a tyrannical government (Hunger Games anyone?). It has been decreed that twice a year, victims are selected as sacrifices to The Savage (Haben), a demon of the Underworld who devours his victims.
19 year old Seycia has been looking after her younger brother Miko since their parents were killed after a town raid. They have managed to lead a quiet and undetected life, but this comes to a crashing halt when General Simeon (who was scarred by her father) seals Seycia’s fate as the next sacrifice. Unlike the majority of the sacrificed souls, Seycia doesn’t die when she goes to the Underworld. Instead, she teams up with Haben to get revenge on Simeon as well as potentially free Haben from Dohv, the lord of the Underworld whose responsible for Haben’s curse.
Haben and his arc was by far my favorite of this book. He is so easy to fall in love with. The fact that he has this unbearable hunger (thanks to Dohv) as well as these shifts in demeanor that are physically debilitating makes you feel even worse for him. In addition to Haben’s character, I also really liked that the romance between him and Seycia was a natural, slow-burn romance. Nothing was forced.
Surprisingly, I had a hard time with the POV switching for this story. I kept getting confused once Miko’s storyline started to intertwine with Seycia’s and Haben’s. It could also be that I wasn’t as invested in his character the way that I was the others.
Thank you to Inkshares for providing an ARC for review. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.