Series: Kingdom of Souls #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 3rd 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.
Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.
There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.
She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.
This is the West-African inspired fantasy we all deserved!
Deeply complex and rich with magic and deception, Kingdom of Souls is a deliciously dark take on African mythology. Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah is desperate to come into her powers and perform magic. But after years of failure, Arrah is willing to try one last thing to get what she wants: trade years of her life for magic. Naturally, all is not what it seems. When children start disappearing, Arrah is transported on a dangreous journey where she must discover who and what she is.
You’re intrigued, right? Strangely enough, this book reminded me of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman until things took a very dark and interesting turn when who and what had the children was revealed. That was when I felt truly hooked on this book. It opened a very interesting dynamic between Arrah and another character (who I shall not name for fear of spoilers), and opened one hell of a shit storm that would be the second half of this book. At this point, I was rubbing my hands together thinking, ‘at last! Some real excitement!’
My main issue with Kingdom of Souls was the pacing (and the ending). There was a lot happening in this book that dragged when it shouldn’t have. There were demons, blood sacrifices and evil creeping at every corner but it lacked conviction in places – particularly the middle. And then there was the end… what a lacklustre and confusing mess that was. After all the grand reveals were made, it had felt like we’d met a natural conclusion a number of chapters before the end. Everything after that felt like an attempt to stretch this book into a series.
With changes to the ending, Kingdom of Souls could easily have been a (much improved) standalone. I’m not sure how keen I am to see where the next book goes because I didn’t care much for this particular villain… but it’s likely that I’ll read it all the same.
All in all, Kingdom of Souls was an exceptionally fleshed out and dark tale of sacrifice, magic and relationships. Although it takes time to feel invested, it’s definitely worth it! The twists and turns will leave you wanting to turn the pages for more.
Triger Warning: blood sacrifice, parental abuse, death of a child, deception used to have sex
Picking my ‘favourite’ quotes from this book was a hard task because this book wasn’t written in a way that was particularly beautiful or quote worthy. There was no poetic purple prose. It used its basic functions to tell the story in the least descriptive way possible and that was that. Having said that, there were the odd bits here and there that I could pick out (mostly towards the second half of the book)….
“I’m falling, falling, falling through stars.”
“I am nowhere and everywhere at once. I am no one and everyone.”
“The ground shakes beneath my feet, and I descend upon my sister like a raging firestorm.”
“Fire tears through me and awakens the voices. They whisper of thunder and lightning. They whisper of firestorms. They whisper of murder.”
“Before the Orishas, it created order and chaos. From order came time, and from chaos came life and death. The whispers in my head are so feverish that they make me feel like I’m falling into the Supreme Cataclysm too.”
Meet the Author
Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French. Follow her at @renathedreamer and renabarron.com. She is represented by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
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Will you be reading Kingdom of Souls?
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