The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis #SPFBO

shadowsoulThe Shadow Soul is the first of my books for the final stage of the SPFBO. I confess that I’ve been prevaricating over this review, I finished the book over a week ago but my thoughts were a bit of a jumble.  On the one hand I think this is a good story as far as action and adventure goes, albeit not one that I loved, and also, in fairness to the author, probably aimed at a much younger audience, but then I found myself with a number of niggles along the way.  Anyway, a little about the book first.

We start off by making the acquaintance of Jinji on what is one of the most important days for a young female of the Arpapajo tribe.  Jinji is about to go through a rite of passage during which she will pass from a child into womanhood and be partnered with a young warrior named Maniuk.  No longer will her hair flow freely but instead remain permanently plaited as befits her new status.  I must admit that I thought the opening scenes were really quite engaging.  I enjoyed learning a little of the tribe and their rituals and Jinji is an honest and intriguing narrator.  It was endearing to read her thoughts and concerns over whether she was really ready for such a big step. Unfortunately, on the same day, before Jinji (or the reader for that matter) has any more time for reflection, disaster strikes, a shadow falls over her home and her entire tribe and home is destroyed.  

We also make the acquaintance of Rhen.  Rhen is a young prince.  As we meet up with him he seems to be running from his kingdom and making his way into the woods and further afield.  Stories of unmarked ships seen off the coast and other rumours of unrest have spurred the Prince into action.  He comes across the burnt village of the Arpapajo tribe and finds one survivor, barely alive, Jinji.  

Now, what we gather as the story progresses to this stage is that both of the above named have magical abilities.  Jinji’s magic basically enables her to create images that appear to be real.  Rhen’s magic gives him an affinity with fire that draws him to naked flames and allows him to manipulate them.  The next concept I really liked.  It put me in mind of the story of the Prince and the pauper – well, not quite, but, similar(ish).  Rhen has switched his attire so he no longer looks like a Prince and Jinji has created an image that portrays her as a young boy (in fact the brother who was so cruelly stolen from her family a few years ago).   So, firstly, the two of them are in disguise, secondly they’re both hiding their magic from the other and finally, although they agree to team up they’re actually pursuing different aims.  Jinji searches for the shadow that she has seen in her dreams and that she believes killed her family, Rhen searches for proof that his kingdom is under threat of war to prove himself to his family.

The setting is the Kingdom of Whylkin.  The land was conquered many moons ago by Whyl the Conqueror, he united all the kings of the country under his banner spreading his rule far and wide and even going so far as to enforce all the inhabitants of the kingdom to speak using one common tongue.  Across the ocean lies the Kingdom of Ourthuro.  It seems that unrest is stirring abroad, people are looking with covetous eyes and potential plots are being hatched.

So, why did I have mixed feelings for this book.  

In terms of what I liked.  The author has a very easy to read style of writing.  I think it’s quite well executed.  I enjoyed the switch in POV and there are some very interesting concepts.  I thought the start was very good and pulled me into the story well and I particularly enjoyed Jinji and her tribe – in fact I must admit that I was disappointed that the entire tribe were wiped out quite so efficiently.  

However, it just felt for me that something was lacking in terms of both the world and the character building. I didn’t really have a good feel for the place and it felt a little like there were gaps that I couldn’t reconcile.  There are a number of adventures as the story progresses but none of the threats involved ever felt real and in fact any sort of dangerous situation was fairly quickly resolved.  On top of that I wasn’t really enamoured with Rhen.  In fact, I didn’t like him (I won’t elaborate but a number of his actions gave me pause for thought).  He seems to have some sort of romantic notion about heroics and adventure that give him the rather foolish notion that he’s a spy.  He rushes around the countryside and even across the oceans seeking out proofs of his own ability and actually putting lots of other people at risk in the process. 

Jinji’s character is much more likable I must confess.  I liked her chapters much more although at the point when she started to find herself becoming attracted to Rhen – well, I’m sorry but I really do have to question her judgement over that one in fact I find it a little bit unbelievable that she would do so.  That aside, yes, I liked Jinji and probably would have enjoyed this more if it was told in just her perspective as it might have allowed me to see a different side to Rhen and maybe understand why she started to like him.

In fairness to the book and the author, as I said above, I didn’t dislike this and also I think it is aimed at a much younger audience so I really hope this doesn’t come across as overly critical.  It just didn’t work for me as I had too many unanswered queries that pulled me out of the plot and stopped me enjoying the characters as I would have liked.


Final Batch of books: My first book #SPFBO

FullSizeRender-10November 1st saw the start of the second stage of the SPFBO – the Self Published Fantasy Blog off organised by Mark Lawrence.  All the details can be found here.

There can be only one – could be the catchphrase for this competition.  We started off with 300 books and 10 bloggers.  Each blogger was assigned 30 books and chose one to take forward into the next round.  For the final stage each blogger will now read and rate the books selected by the other 9 bloggers and when the ratings are jotted up hopefully we will have an outright winner.

I am really looking forward to this stage – there are some great looking books put forward into this round and I’m excited to pick them up.  As with round one, my book order has been chosen at random (basically numbers drawn from a hat – I’m not kidding) and as for the first stage I’m going to spotlight each book before I read it followed by my review upon completion.

So, the first book out of the hat was:

The Shadow Soul (A Dance of Dragons #1) by Kaitlyn Davis – synopsis from Goodreads copied below.  This certainly sounds intriguing ‘an age of myth that is about to be reborn’ – not to mention ‘perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, and Tamora Pierce!’ Strong praise indeed.  The story is told in alternating male/female POVs – I’m keen to see how that works out and basically with the above comparisons – I can’t wait to dive in.

Described as ‘a solid YA fantasy’ this entry was put forward by Fantasy Literature:

shadowsoulFrom bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis comes a fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Kristin Cashore, and Tamora Pierce! Told in alternating male and female perspectives, THE SHADOW SOUL has been hailed as “an amazing start to a new series that is going to have people of all ages wanting so much more.” (Happy Tails & Tales Reviews)

When Jinji’s home is destroyed, she is left with nowhere to run and no one to run to–until she meets Rhen, a prince chasing rumors that foreign enemies have landed on his shores. Masquerading as a boy, Jinji joins Rhen with vengeance in her heart. But traveling together doesn’t mean trusting one another, and both are keeping a deep secret–magic. Jinji can weave the elements to create master illusions and Rhen can pull burning flames into his flesh.

But while they struggle to hide the truth, a shadow lurks in the night. An ancient evil has reawakened, and unbeknownst to them, these two unlikely companions hold the key to its defeat. Because their meeting was not coincidence–it was fate. And their story has played out before, in a long forgotten time, an age of myth that is about to be reborn…

Watch this space!