Kingdom of Souls – Book Review #Gifted
I was kindly granted my wish for an e-arc of Kingdom of Souls from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I read the synopsis of this book I was desperate to read it. Magic, witchdoctors, demons and mysterious disappearances… yes please!
Kingdom of Souls Review
Kingdom of Souls is an enjoyable YA fantasy novel with an interesting magic system and some rich world building. Arrah comes from a long line of witchdoctors but no matter how hard she tries magic will not answer her call. When children begin to go missing Arrah turns to her last resort and trades her years of life for some temporary magic. When she discovers that the Demon King in stirring Arrah knows the price she has to pay to stop him from destroying her world.
There are some wonderful characters in Kingdom of Souls and one of my favourite parts of the novel is where we meet the different witchdoctor tribes. Arrah, our heroine, is the daughter of tribe Aatiri. Unlike most heroes she isn’t gifted with special abilities. All that she gives comes through personal sacrifice. She is fixated on magic and her actions are always true to character.
Arrah’s family are all very interesting. Her grandmother is the Aatiri chieftan and I love how her role gives a formal as well as familial relationship with Arrah. As chieftan she must be respected but there is obviously a closeness as her grandmother. It is this that causes lines to be blurred and traditions to be broken.
One of the coolest characters is Arrah’s mother, who is high Priestess of Tamar, hand selected by the Almighty One. They have a strained relationship to say the least and is interesting how it changes as events unfold.
Rudjek is one of my favourite characters and Arrah’s friend/love interest. He has complicated family relationships of his own, which is why he can understand Arrah’s position so well. This is a relationship that you can really see developing and I was certainly invested in.
I love the magic system in this book and the first look at the five tribes is fantastic. The tribal council is made up from the edam, six individuals selected by the High Chieftan, who show mastery of their magic. Beyond the tribal magic. A crucial aspect to the book is how individuals without magic can trade years of their life so magic will temporarily answer their call. It adds a really interesting layer to the story and is refreshing as so many books have protagonists who suddenly find powers/magic. This magic costs.
As well as magic the gods play an important role in Kingdom of Souls, as well as the Demon King. It took me a little while to get my head around who was who but I really enjoyed how they were built into the story, especially later into the book.
Rena Barron has created a really rich world and the magic feels very tangible. I really enjoyed the different settings in the story and think the world is very well done, especially for a debut novel.
The book is West-African inspired and is described by Rena as a “homage to my West African ancestors who lost much more than their freedom. They endured the suppression and vilification of their culture, traditions, and sacred beliefs”. I think Rena does a brilliant job of celebrating and embracing West African culture in the book whilst exploring these difficult themes.
Family relationships play a big part in the novel both in character development, as well as the plot. There are both positive and negative relationships, which are both interesting.
I really enjoyed Kingdom of Souls and the magic was everything that I hoped it would be. This book is very different from a lot of YA fantasy novels and has a LOT of unpredictable twists. The relationships between the characters feel extremely real and natural despite their complexity. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens in book two releasing in 2021!
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