Tina S Beier
The Phantom Forest (Book Review)
by Liz Kerin
Thank you to NetGalley for the free e-book in exchange for a fair review!
18-year-old Seycia lives on the outskirts of town with her 12-year-old brother Miko, having been orphaned years prior when their parents were killed by the dictatorial General Simeon. The General maintains control of the population by sacrificing people to The Savage, a beast under control of the God of the Underworld, Dohv. We learn that The Savage demon is a man, Haben, who is cursed by the God to transform into The Savage. To save her brother from Simeon, Seycia must travel into the underworld.
I could not put this down! The setting is fantastic – an intriguing post-apocalyptic world paired with an equally compelling underworld that is part Greek mythology and part Dante’s Inferno. Granted, you must accept that an underworld exists in the capacity that the author has described, but that is part of the fun of the novel.
The characters are understandable and likable. Seycia is a self-reliant, stubborn, and tough young woman who refuses to be victimized. I loved her determination. Miko is a child character who never acts older than his age. Haben is perfectly executed – he is surly and bitter but never abusive. The reason for his curse is not a surprise, nor is his redemptive arc, but this did not take away from the story for me. I also love a good beauty and the beast tale, so I enjoyed their burgeoning relationship. The General was despicable and had clear motives – he never became a caricature of a villain. When Dohv is on the page he is menacing and unrelenting; a great pairing with the General’s tenuous hold on his power.
While the prose was evocative and descriptive without being boring, but there were some inconsistencies and repeated descriptions of emotions (such as people being exasperated). There wasn’t enough of this to be distracting, but it could have been tightened.
I’m a big fan of quest narratives and this novel had real tension. I could feel the threat of Dohv everywhere the pair traveled. The sections with Miko dragged a little for me. They weren’t poorly done or boring, but I was wanting to get back to the underworld!
I wasn’t a fan of the ending. While I understand it was setting up for a sequel, it could have ended more definitively. But that seems to the be the trend today.
Overall, a very fun, interesting, enjoyable novel!