I Gave Goodreads' Recommendations a Second Chance (Forest of Souls vs. The Kinder Poison)
ABOUT THE RECOMMENDATION
Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee is my favorite YA fantasy of 2020 to date. Not too long ago I did a blog reading 3 Goodreads' recommendations, but none were in my favorite genre (YA fantasy). That experiment had...mixed to negative results. However, I wanted to give Goodreads one more chance. So, I picked up one of the books they recommended me based on my enjoyment of Forest of Souls. That book was The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae. This blog will examine both books and whether or not, in my opinion, this is a recommendation that makes sense.
WHAT IS FOREST OF SOULS ABOUT?
Forest of Souls is about Sirscha Ashwyn, an orphan solider who is training to be the queen's spy. Her plans are uprooted when she discovers she is shamanborn and possesses a rare magic. Her magic may be the only thing capable of destroying the Dead Wood (a forest of possessed trees). She (and her best friend Saengo) must travel into the Dead Wood in order for Sirscha to learn how to use her magic.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT FOREST OF SOULS
By far my favorite part of Forest of Souls was its atmosphere. Both the Dead Wood itself and Spinner's End (the castle that resides within the forest) were very creepy and unnerving. The novel is a perfect fall time read that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
I also really liked the magic system of the world. It revolved around the elements with people who have magic being known as shamanborn. I liked the magic system because it was very accessible to a wide variety of readers. While simple it was dictated by stable rules.
Finally, I liked the relationship between two of the main characters, Sirscha and Saengo. The girls were best friends who viewed each other as sisters. They came from different backgrounds and had very different personalities (Sirscha was more assertive while Saengo was sweeter) but the two balanced each other out well. It was very refreshing to read a novel that had a female friendship as the main relationship rather than a romance.
My final rating for this novel was 5 ⭐️.
WHAT IS THE KINDER POISON ABOUT?
The Kinder Poison is about a girl named Zahru who is chosen to be the human sacrifice for the Crossing. The Crossing is a race across the desert to determine which of the current ruler's three children will be the crown prince/princess. Zahru must be killed by whichever heir has her at the race's conclusion. The novel follows Zahru as she tries to survive the harsh desert climate and the heirs to make her way back home.
MY REVIEW OF THE KINDER POISON
Of all the characters in the novel the protagonist Zahru was by far my least favorite. She was too passive of a character for my preferences. Most of the novel consisted of her being passed around between the three heirs (Jet, Sakira, and Kasta). I prefer my protagonists to have more personality and be more active in their stories. The heirs themselves, while not all likable, were far more interesting and well developed with understandable motives. Even Maia, a shapeshifter and friend turned enemy of Kasta, had a more compelling story.
Zahru and Jet developed a romance in the novel and, while they had good chemistry with each other, they trusted each other far too quickly. Their 'bond' was instantaneous. It would have been a much better romance if only the author had slowed things down some.
While the novel was a tad slow in the beginning I do feel that, overall, it had decent pacing. That being said, once the Crossing began the plot became repetitive. As I mentioned before, a lot of the story was the three heirs playing hot potato with Zahru.
Parts of the world were well developed. Mae established the rules of the society including the Crossing and the treatment of people depending on their magic level. At the same time I felt Mae had too many different types of magic. I think the world would have felt tighter if she had limited the magics. I also would have liked an explanation as to why the people of their kingdom (Orkena) had magic while the surrounding ones did not.
My final rating for this novel was (a generous) 3 ⭐️.
DOES THE KINDER POISON COMPARE TO FOREST OF SOULS?
The main similarities the two share are a genre (YA fantasy) and both having a female protagonist. Atmosphere wise they are not at all similar. The Kinder Poison lacks the unsettling spookiness that I loved about Forest of Souls. Their magic systems aren't really at all similar, either. Forest of Souls' was much better defined. While The Kinder Poison had mention of elemental magic (similar to that of Forest of Souls), none of the main characters had that. Additionally, while there were female friendships in The Kinder Poison it was more romance focused. Really, they are two very different novels and I personally wouldn't recommend The Kinder Poison to people who enjoyed Forest of Souls.
WHAT WOULD I RECOMMEND INSTEAD?
I have three recommendations for you if you enjoyed Forest of Souls. Two are other YA fantasy books and one is a TV show (now on Netflix). The first book I'm going to recommend is Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. This novel has quite a few plot similarities to Forest of Souls. Both feature female protagonists with rare, light magic that can be used to destroy a dark, monster filled area which has torn the kingdom in half. The second novel recommendation I have is not similar plot wise but rather has the same creepy, unsettling vibe as Forest of Souls. So, if you liked the spooky atmosphere then I think you would also enjoy The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones. My final recommendation is for those who liked the elemental magic system in the novel. A very similar magic system exists within the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender.
WILL I TRY GOODREADS' RECOMMENDATIONS AGAIN?
I am not entirely adverse to the idea of trying Goodreads' recommendations again. However, I will definitely go in with cautiously optimistic expectations. I think that Goodreads can be a wonderful resource for book lovers. Even though I haven't enjoyed all of their recommendations I have, for the most part, understood where they were coming from. This specific recommendation wasn't as clear to me. So, stay tuned for my next Goodreads adventure...
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