Do you know what the publishing world needs? A genre between YA and Adult. A genre that connects to readers of the 18-30 age range with YA writing style and not just YA + sex. Because while The Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke may be published in the YA genre, it definitely doesn’t fit the YA age range.
When Torvi’s sister Morgunn is kidnapped by a band of wolf priests, Torvi will do whatever she must to get her back. Which includes joining a druid and a band of roaming bards as they travel through one of the Endless Forests, encountering magic, joy, and death in search for a magical sword. But Torvi will learn that setting out to find her sister is just the first step toward a grander life—one she never could have imagined.
The world-building in The Seven Endless Forests is phenomenal. Every detail, every description seeps into the story until it becomes just as important as the plot or the characters. This was one of the aspects that drew me into The Boneless Mercies, and it shows that April Genevieve Tucholke has a gift when it comes to world-building and writing style.
There’s so much depth to the world and how it carries the story forward that while reading, I kept thinking about how the story would make such a great Dungeons and Dragons campaign. It has all the right elements for a fantasy journey–characters with drive and purpose, memorable locations that help the reader navigate the world alongside the characters, and enough drama to keep things interesting. I just might have to adapt this somehow for a campaign.
The story itself, however, isn’t what I expected. It’s pitched as a retelling of the King Arthur legend, but it’s only the bare bones of the story. Prior knowledge of the legend isn’t necessary to understand this book, and people expecting a faithful retelling might not even enjoy it. It’s more of a marketing ploy to give it comparison to The Boneless Mercies being a retelling of Beowulf.
The characters also left me feeling a bit mixed. The side characters are fascinating in their own way, but the main character, Torvi, comes across distant. Many of the “big” moments of the story were anti-climatic because Torvi was unconscious or far removed from the situation at hand. She simply didn’t react enough to the events that unfolded around her. She gives up easily on her sister and even a part that is supposed to be utterly devastating and a breaking point to her character passes without much emotion or thought. Most of the events of the story stack upon each other—one thing leading to the next and next—but there isn’t the desired tension. The story builds but it does not rise. It just happens. She’s there. They’re there. It moves on.
Many of the events that occur seem almost random, like they’re reaching for something more but it never quite gets there. The last chapter does this and I am still not sure if there will be a sequel or if this is the end of Torvi’s tale. If this is the end, it wraps up much too quickly. If there’s more, I wish the last chapters did not exist.
In addition, this is the type of book that makes me wish that there was a genre somewhere between YA and Adult. While reading, I couldn’t help but wonder if teens would relate to Torvi and her struggles. She may be the same age as them (her age isn’t specified from what I can remember), but her life doesn’t seem relatable to a teen’s experience. For the college/20s age, though, a lot of readers would consume this story and seem a part of themselves in Torvi’s decisions and destiny. If this had gone a tad deeper, it would have excelled as an adult fantasy except for the obvious, YA writing style.
The writing of The Seven Endless Forests is brilliant, the world-building excellent. I like the characters, but the story is a bit lackluster. It’s missing something that would bump it from a good story to a great one. From an adventure to a legend.
~I received an early digital copy of The Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.~