Book Review: Kingdom of Souls

Rena Barron

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

published: 3rd September 2019
spoilers? no



Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.

Galley provided by publisher

Kingdom of Souls was, in the end, a solid debut novel. It was an epic fantasy full of twists and turns, and with characters to love right from the beginning. And, for the most part, I really enjoyed it. That sounds ominous, but it’s not to say there were parts I actively hated, just. Slightly disliked, I guess.

The book starts with the premise that Arrah, the daughter of two of the most powerful witchdoctors in the country, does not have magic. This proves a constant disappointment to her mother, although her father is more circumspect about it. When one of Arrah’s friends disappears, along with a number of other children, she decides to bargain in a ritual which will give her magic.

The storyline is less a mystery than I was expecting, in all honesty. That’s not a bad thing, because the route it took made the book a lot more tense. Because you (and Arrah) know who did it and their plan, but there’s magic involved, and just how is Arrah going to get out of this situation. And the way Rena Barron builds up that tension across the book is incredible. Which is why the last fifth of the book or so felt a little disappointing. All that tension is lost in favour of some meandering (and absolutely unnecessary het drama). Add into that the fact that there didn’t seem to be limits on the magic people could do? Some scenes felt like they finished too quickly. So, really, it just lost a little momentum towards the end (although the end itself was great).

There were also a couple of other things that clearly marked it as a debut for me. One was how the story flowed. For the most part, it was fine, but once or twice events would happen abruptly and just gave me a bit of a huh? moment (events that you wouldn’t expect to happen abruptly, in particular). The other thing was there were sometimes lines which I was clearly supposed to take as some obvious conclusion to draw given some previous information. Only I didn’t know the previous information. Obviously, both these things could just be me, not paying enough attention while I’m reading or whatever. And also, if not, they’re things that can resolve with experience anyway.

But, to end on a positive note, the best part of this book was the characters. I loved them all (at least those that I was supposed to), although certain characters made me want to shake them (that het drama……..) and others I wanted to see more of (give me that f/f). Overall though, I think you need a combination of great characters and fast moving plot to write a good fantasy novel, and this had both of them.

And now, after that final twist, I will be waiting impatiently for the next book.

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