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.



August : My Month in Covers

Hi everyone, hope you’ve all had a lovely August with lots of sunshine and socialising.  I’ve had a good month in terms of reading.  I’ve been a bit more focused and although I do have a few reviews yet to schedule I’m kind of on track so all good.  Plus I’ve provided my feedback on the second month of SPFBO books and chosen two books to read fully one already reviewed here and another review to follow tomorrow).  My next batch of books will be highlighted on Monday.  So, here is my month in covers: