25 August, 2020

[Review] Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke

Seven Endless Forests
Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: 28 April, 2020
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Fantasy/Norse Mythology/Arthurian Legend/Action & Adventure/Folk Lore
ISBN: 9780374307097
Edition: Hardcover (available in eBook and audiobook)
Rating: ★★
Review Written: 9 July, 2020
Warnings: Death
In this gorgeous standalone companion to the critically acclaimed fantasy, The Boneless Mercies, April Tucholke spins a bold and blood-hungry retelling of the King Arthur legend that is perfect for fans of Naomi Novik, Garth Nix, and Laini Taylor.

On the heels of a devastating plague, Torvi’s sister, Morgunn, is stolen from the family farm by Uther, a flame-loving Fremish wolf-priest who leads a pack of ragged, starving girls. Torvi leaves the only home she’s ever known, and joins a shaven-skulled 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 encounter magical night wilds and mystical Drakes who trade in young men. They will sing rowdy Elshland ballads in a tree-town tavern, and find a mysterious black tower in an Endless Forest. They will fight alongside famous Vorseland archers and barter with Fremish wizards. They will feast with rogue Jade Fell children in a Skal Mountain cave, and seek the help of a Pig Witch. They 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.

See more by April Genevieve Tucholke at her website.

Though I have yet to finish Ms. Tucholke's first book The Boneless Mercies, I plunged right into this novel with a ferocity. Though Seven Endless Forests references Ms. Tucholke's first book, it definitely isn't necessary to read the first book. There are slight spoilers for how the book ends however, so be cautious when reading.

Torvi and her sister Morgunn are the only survivors of a Winter sickness that swept through their farm in the Vorselands. To make matters worse, it's the time of year when the Fremish wizards are invading, practicing magic and luring girls away to join their packs. Though she tries to hold her sister close, Morgunn is uninterested in being protected by her "weaker" older sister. After meeting a Shaved-headed Druid, Morgunn runs off to join Uther to find fame and a lost Kingdom and a mythical sword. 

Torvi, though afraid of change, rushes after her with the assistance of the shaven-skull druid and Butcher Bards, performers and killers in one from her native home land of Elsh. Along the way, Torvi learns that she has Sea-Witch blood in her, as well as learning the truth about the night Morgunn disappeared. Her sister, whom she thought was kidnapped, had run off to join Uther willingly.

Throughout the entire novel, Torvi grows and learns how to be the leader that her nursemaid always saw in her, and how to defy her mother's expectations of her having a soft life. In the end, Torvi is the one who draws the legendary sword and claims the lost Jarldom of the Seven Endless Forests. She makes allies among the others, and works to have a fair and just rule. 

The book ends with Torvi heading off to try and put an end to her sister's dangerous actions, and debating if she will return to her Jarldom any time soon.

Truly, this book is a fun read for anyone who enjoys Arthurian legends or Nordic mythos. A good blend of the two, and a larger sense of world-building that continues from the previous book in this shared world provides a stunning take on the Arthurian legends. I look forward to seeing what comes next for Ms. Tucholke.

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