— DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC of this book from Harper Voyager through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Many thanks for this opportunity! —
2019 is an amazing year for diverse fantasy, and Rena Barron’s debut novel, Kingdom of Souls is one of it’s gems. Not only is it beautifully written and unique, it also has a amazing cover (and ARCS even feature the 2019 Fantasy Snake, a trend which seems to be a marker of excellence – Serpent and Dove, one of my favourite books this year, of which you’ll get a review in a few days, and Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House, which I haven’t got to read yet, but have heard amazing things of, are just two of the many examples. Although I only gave Kingdom of Souls 4 stars, I loved it, and will definitely be rereading it as soon as I receive my finished copy! For me, 5 stars are reserved for the very rare books that immediately join my all-time favourites, and stick with me, and have me thinking about for ages – I think I’ve only given out four or five 5 star ratings this year on over a hundred books. What I’m trying to say is that for me, 4 stars is likely what others would see as 5 stars!
PUBLICATION DATE: 10/09/2019
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: In a world where her mother is a powerful priestess with magical powers and her grandmother leads a clan of witch doctors, Arrah is powerless. Struggling with her lack of Magic, she becomes desperate when children start vanishing and decides to cast a ritual giving her power in return for years of her life. Her path to try and contain the looming darkness is perilous and unexpected, and she will have to go against family and friends to save them all.
OPINIONS: For me, Kingdom of Souls top feature was the beautiful writing, especially the descriptions of magic. Passages such as “Magic of all colors flutters in the air as gentle as wingbeats. I can’t be still when it dances on my father’s dark skin like lightning bugs. It flits out along his jaw and leaps onto his nose. My hand shoots out to catch an ember of gold, but it slips through my fingers. I giggle, and he laughs too.” or “Magic clings to the air, so thick that it stings my skin. It dances in the night sky above endless rows of tents quilted in vibrant colors.” are haunting and lyrical, and made me fall in love with the book. I can’t wait for Rena to become an established author – if her debut writing is this good, just imagine what years to come will bring!
I’ve you’ve been following my reviews, you might have noticed that character depth and development are something that is like catnip for me. And Arrah does not disappoint. She grows into herself over the course of the novel, and actively tries to overcome her issues. She is a deeply flawed character, but she is real and human, makes mistakes and fixes them, and we see her struggling with the things she is confronted with over the course of the story. This depth is not lacking when it comes to the more minor characters, who shine just as much.
I could rave on and on, but I’d likely end up spoiling the magic for you. So go and add Kingdom of Souls on Goodreads, and pre-order it from your favourite source of books. Pro-tip, Goldsboro has a special signed edition with sprayed edges which you can find here (this is the version I preordered). And in the meantime, I will have to think about my rating again, and see if the book does not deserve the full 5 stars after all…