Hello Humans! Who is ready for some weird norse-esque-magical-king Arthur strangeness? If the answer is you – then read on to see what I thought of Seven Endless Forests.
A bold and blood-hungry retelling of the King Arthur legend from the critically acclaimed author of The Boneless Mercies.
On the heels of a devastating plague, Torvi’s sister Morgunn is stolen from the family farm by Uther, a flame-loving wolf-priest who leads a pack of ragged, starving girls.
Torvi leaves the only home she’s ever known and joins a shaven-headed druid and a band of roaming Elsh artists known as the Butcher Bards. They set out on a quest to rescue Torvi’s sister, and find a mythical sword. On their travels, Torvi and her companions will face wild, dangerous magic that leads to love, joy, tragedy, and death. . .
Torvi set out to rescue a sister, but she may find it’s merely the first step toward a life that is grander and more glorious than anything she could have imagined.
Things I probably should have realised/processed before I started reading:
- This is a King Arthur retelling
- This is in the same ‘universe’ as The Boneless Mercies
Those two things, when you know them, make quite a big difference to how you read this book. I am the first to admit my own failings and I probably should have twigged the King Arthur thing sooner – I would probably have spent less time thinking ‘but this is just King Arthur’. But hey, we live and we learn to pay more attention to blurbs before we start reading and not when we start writing the review.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Boneless Mercies so once I realised this was set in the same world I got a little trepidatious. That being said, I think this book is much stronger and I definitely felt as though I got more out of it than the ‘first book’. I also like the idea of writing at a time where the events of the first book have passed into legend, it means you can make callbacks and references but there’s also room for things to have been forgotten or changed over time – I think it would be an interesting thing to explore further and, in a world where I was paid to read books, I might re-read them both to see how it feels. Alas I am not, and must spend my reading time elsewhere.
Torvi – now Torvi I was on the fence about. On the one hand, I do like a character with some vulnerability, and I’ve often seen myself in the kind of YA characters who don’t believe in themselves and have to find their own strength. Unfortunately – and this is a personal preference thing – I find it really hard to read books where younger siblings become the entire reason another character does something, particularly when that sibling is old enough to claim responsibility for their own actions. There is never a point in this book where it feels like Morgunn is making good choices, so it’s hard to root for her, and subsequently, I got frustrated when Torvi was so hellbent on sorting her out. I think that probably says more about my own patience for people who are making poor choices than it does the book itself – but it coloured my reading of it somewhat. When Torvi started making choices for herself, and for other people who weren’t consciously destroying things, then I really found myself enjoying the story.
It is a bit of a weird story, as I said at the start I didn’t twig the King Arthur thing at first, so perhaps there were more references that I didn’t catch, but it didn’t feel like this book went all in – so I wasn’t sure quite what the purpose of that retelling element was. There was an interesting world, some different magic types, some characters who seemed to have interesting things going on – and then there was this sword in the stone/tree business that, while it strung everything together, didn’t quite have the impact I felt it could have had. Perhaps on a re-read, it would feel different but in the first reading, the plot felt a tad confused and convoluted.
This is a quick read, and I think that’s probably a good thing. Though I might have liked to go a little deeper on some elements, I’m not sure there was enough meat there to fill a whole other book. I thought the ending came…abruptly? Even though there was a good amount of epilogue afterwards. I was expecting them to try and find a different way to solve things than the obvious way and that…didn’t happen. I can’t go into the ending or it’ll spoil things, but let’s just say I felt there were missed opportunities.
Overall this was a solid YA fantasy read, though I am so done with retellings I may need a year off. I’d recommend it if you loved The Boneless Mercies but if, like me, you were fairly meh about it then there are other books to read – maybe pick this up from the library if you get curious?
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
The Seven Endless Forests is out June 1st (at the time of writing)
What say you? Will you be picking this up? Let me know in the comments below!