Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1) by Rena Barron

Posted On 2 September 2019

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KingdomofKingdom of Souls has left me with very mixed feelings.  I loved elements of this book, the magic, the world building and the truly unique fantasy setting, but, on the other hand it’s very dark indeed, it suffers a little by being overly ambitious and in some respects it felt like I was reading two different stories.  I liked this but it didn’t quite bowl me over in the way I expected.  In fact, this review has been really difficult to write because of how jumbled up I feel, hopefully my thoughts will come together as I write on.

Firstly, the start.  I loved it.  The introduction to this world and Arrah.  Arrah is the daughter of two powerful witch doctors but as the story sets out we learn that the magic that flows strongly through her family refuses to visit her and she feels hurt and humiliated by her lack of ability.  Arrah’s parents are from two different tribes and Arrah feels like she isn’t truly accepted by either, fortunately the family moved to the City where Arrah’s mother is a powerful priestess.  Arrah’s parents – her mother is a cold woman, feared by many.  She seems to have very little love for Arrah and is clearly disappointed in her daughter’s lack of magic.  Her father is completely different.  Warm and loving, he dotes on his daughter and idolises his wife – I did have a moment of wondering how he could overlook some of his wife’s coldness, not see her true nature, was he truly so enamoured with her looks that he couldn’t see beyond that to the way she treated Arrah?  But, anyway, he has a great relationship with Arrah which was lovely to read about.  We also meet up with Arrah’s love interest Rudjek.  The two share secret meetings in the marketplace.  Rudjek’s father and Arrah’s mother are bitter rivals and so the love developing between them will never be acceptable to either family.

I really enjoyed the start of the book, learning about the place, the traditions and Arrah and her family.  At this point we start to learn of a mystery, children are going missing in the City and Arrah seems to be the only one who is truly concerned.  Arrah doesn’t have any magic of her own but she has learnt that she can bargain for some by trading away years of her life and in desperation, when one of her friends goes missing she takes this step – what she finds is shocking, both in terms of the missing children and who is taking them but why they are being taken.  Arrah uncovers a plot that threatens her entire world.

The thing with this review is it’s going to be truly difficult to outline those aspects of the book that held me back without giving away spoilers so the rest of this review will probably come across as something of a tease.

I had issues with the pacing.  I loved the start, as already mentioned, I felt like the middle dragged a little and then the end was fast and furious.  Then there’s the scope – this is undoubtedly epic, a story that spans the ages really but at the same time it feels like there’s such a lot going on, so many different aspects introduced over such a relatively short period that I felt like it was difficult to absorb everything, I don’t think I ever had that feeling of settling into the place and becoming comfortable before things were moving on again.  And, there were so many different ideas and planes – like the place that Arrah and her family moved to – it was just so unusual that I couldn’t get to grips with it really.  Then there’s the plot, it starts out as a sort of mystery, it develops into a conspiracy and then it goes into new territory completely that even now I’m not sure I’ve got a grip on.

Okay, I’m probably not painting a very positive picture here which is a little bit unfair and I certainly don’t want to discourage others from reading it.  This is a story that has such a lot going for it.  I can’t praise highly enough the imagination, the creativity or the uniqueness of this book.  I was stopped in my tracks when Arrah first used her ill gotten magic to find out who in the City was stealing the children – I mean literally gobsmacked – and then the following chapters had my eyes nearly popping out of my head.  I was stunned – in a good way.  I mean I just didn’t see any of it coming and it took my breath away.  But then, it got a little bit more unusual, a bit weird even, sort of a strange combination of Rosemary’s Baby meets the Omen meets Clash of the Titans.  Actually, that does sound like a pretty cool mash now I come to think of it.

I think my real issue with this boils down to perhaps it being a little over ambitious and maybe a bit too dark – you think GRRM is brutal – hah.  All I can say is be very afraid to form too many attachments.  Very. Afraid.

Overall, I think it’s fair to say that I still have mixed feelings.  I liked this, it has such a lot of exciting ideas, twists and turns and fantastic and unique world building and characters.  But at the same time I can’t deny that I had issues that left me feeling a little frustrated and confused.  To be fair I think this is a book that would be great to reread – I just need to carve out some spare time now in order to do so.

Apologies if this review is an incoherent babble – I did try to form my thoughts but I think I failed so I’m going to step away now.  I’d love to know if you’ve read this and what your thoughts are – hopefully they’re more understandable than mine.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

Rating 7 out of 10 or 3.5 of 5 stars.



30 Responses to “Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1) by Rena Barron”

  1. Tammy

    Your thoughts about this sort of mirror my thoughts about a different YA which I just wrote my review for. Too ambitious and confusing but with really cool world building! I have a copy of this so hopefully I can read it and see what you’re talking about.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I hope you love it Tammy and will definitely be keen to see your thoughts. I had the review for your book and you definitely had similar feelings in particular regarding maybe being over ambitious.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Worse than GRRM as far as character survival is concerned? I would never have thought that possible….

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – me either. Yes, I think Rena Barron would give him a run for his money, she’s not taking prisoners 😀

  3. Sofii @ A Book. A Thought.

    Wow, Amazing Review!!!💕 You’ve given me a lot of important information about the book, which I really appreciate 😊

  4. sjhigbee

    I definately like this one more than you have, Lynn – although I see why you have issues with it and I’d agree in that there was a time up to about halfway through when I thought I was reading a 10 – and then it slipped. Mostly, because as you say, the pacing is uneven and it is very ambitious. And it was definitely violent… But I did love the African setting and the magic system which I felt worked really well. A really great review which managed to effectively convey your mixed feelings – which isn’t easy to do!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh yes, I loved the setting and the myths and magics. Just the pacing issues and over ambition left me a bit muddled – probably a ‘me not you’ thing really
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Yes – I think when a writer has such a very strong voice, it does also come down to personal preference…

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Hmm, I love brutal grimdark, but I also don’t like it when it’s forced, and this one is giving me some of those vibes. Had a flashback to Godblind a little as I was reading some of your descriptions about being too ambitious and maybe a bit too dark!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s not the same as Godblind per se but there’s a definite lack of hope feeling that kind of dragged me down a little. Such a lot of good content though, I mean, it’s a pity it didn’t work better for me but others are loving it. I came away feeling a bit confused with the outcome and I didn’t really enjoy the way the story switched, the first and second half felt like two different books almost.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Lashaan Balasingam @ Bookidote

    Wow. This definitely sounds super dark and somehow that has got me very curious about this book. I do wonder how bad the pacing issues you had would be for me too though. The magic system, however, sounds interesting. Fantastic review, Lynn! 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I must say that this book is overall loved by many so whilst I experienced some pacing issues you might very well not. There is such a magnitude of fascinating ideas and great world building that I can totally see why this book is sweeping everyone off their feet.
      Lynn 😀

  7. evelynreads1

    I absolutely love this cover!
    Great review! This book sounds interesting!


    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh yes, this book is certainly interesting. There is plenty going on and the world building is excellent. I had issues with pacing and maybe being a bit over ambitious in some respects but such wonderful creativity.
      Lynn 😀

  8. confessionsofayareader

    Great review! I thought it was a bit too slow (and too much info) early on, but agree that it really picked up later in the book. I wasn’t a fan early on, but then it just kept getting better for me.

  9. waytoofantasy

    Mixed feelings is always tough. Pacing can kill a book for me, tbh (don’t be mad but I have this issue with LotR, I know I’m horrible lol). Great review!

    • @lynnsbooks

      You’re not horrible and tbh a lot of people have issues with LotR. I don’t mind build up/ descriptions and quite flowery prose – plus I’m not averse to downright weird. Kingdom of Souls has such a lot of great things going on, for me I couldn’t help feeling a little confused at some points and also that the middle section felt very slow – even though there was a lot going on (what a contradiction). It’s got great world building though and really cool ideas. It just didn’t work for me really which is a shame.
      Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        Hah, thanks. I always feel like such a horrible fantasy fan, like I need to turn in my card or something LOL. 🙂
        That is a shame for sure. I definitely think the pacing would be an issue for me.

      • @lynnsbooks

        There are so many fantasy books that I haven’t read – I only started really getting into fantasy a few years ago (although obviously I’ve read a few each year without ever realising) so I should probably hand in my card – in fact I’m surprised a possy hasn’t arrived on my doorstep demanding to take it back.
        Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        Oh that’s funny. I’ve read it pretty much off and on since childhood and heavily since high school, it’s probably the last 4 or 5 years it’s become the majority of my reading. 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yeah, I’ve always read fantasy – but bits and pieces, LotR, Hobbit, when I was very young the Borrowers, Wizard of Oz, Narnia, Alice, Time Machine – but I focus on it a lot more these days. Every now and again I throw something contemporary into the mix but not often. I just love the pure escapism of fantasy.
        Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        Same about the escapism! 😀

  10. Barb @ Booker T's Farm

    I am excited to give this one a try but thanks for the warning about not getting too attached to people! I can usually handle people deaths – it’s the animals ones that kill me.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Haha – yes, I don’t like animal deaths or torture – it tends to feel like it’s thrown in there to demonstrate how bad someone really is. This is receiving lots of love so I hope it really hits the spot for you too. Great world building, lots of creativity, a bit busy for me and dark in some respects.
      Lynn 😀

  11. LizScanlon

    Eeek… I know what it feels like when a book really feels like it has 2 potential stories. It’s very .. like trying to fit together 2 puzzle pieces that ain’t ever going to fit!
    But, having said that, and as you point out, it does sound like a super intriguing read… especially when you compare GRRM’s brutality here in terms of characters you love… It’s one of my pet peeves… with GRRM (having only watched the show- yes! I know!) I wasn’t too overly attached to characters I guess and their deaths were… you know, proper twists… however, when my favourite characters are knocked off in books, it makes and sangry!!!! (Sad/angry)… Great review!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I like Sangry! It’s a keeper.
      Yeah, this has worked really well for a lot of readers and I didn’t dislike it, it had some really great world building and ideas but it didn’t quite work it’s magic, I like the beginning but I definitely had pacing issues and it definitely felt like two different style stories.
      Lynn 😀

  12. Best of the Best list : 2019 | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron […]

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