KINGDOM OF SOULS (Kingdom of Souls #1)
Written by Rena Barron
Published by Harper Voyager, September 3, 2019
My star rating – 4 stars
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. Find it on Goodreads
This book hadn’t even been on my radar until I heard about it at the HCC Frenzy event last weekend. I have to say – I’m so glad that for it because this was a fantastic debut! An African inspired book filled with magic, troubled relationships, folklore, and politics – YES PLEASE!
Magic is a HUGE part of this book and was done in a very unique way. Arrah comes from two VERY powerful families. Her grandmother is the chieftain of her tribe and very respected for her powers. Her mother is also a priestess from another tribe, is known for being one of the most powerful of her kind, and was supposed to be the chieftain of her tribe before she left it to be a priestess. But here’s Arrah – able to see and sense magic yet she has none of her own. Her grandmother tests her yearly and Arrah knows that she sees something but is told that it’s not the right time. When children go missing, and one of them is like a brother to her, she trades years of her life to gain enough magic to see where the children are going.
On one hand I loved the magic – and on the other hand I didn’t. The thing that I loved the most is that there were different tribes. Though each tribe had magic, they all had specific things that they were good at. I LOVED the beginning of the book where we learned all the differences between the tribes! It was SO well written! They had different powers, traditions, and physical attributes. I could have read about the tribes for the full 300+ pages! Sadly, the tribes didn’t play a central part to the story so that part didn’t seem to last long. I REALLY wanted more of the tribes! Maybe as the series continues? I hope!
On the other hand, I struggled a bit to understand the magic completely. I know that it has to do with their “Ka” (soul), and I know some of the things that they could do – but why? The magic system didn’t seem entirely fleshed out. We get examples and scenes where magic is used, but I still felt like something was missing in the explanation. And I went through the whole first part of the book thinking that if you traded your years for magic that you would have all the magic – but that wasn’t the case. She did these spells and still seemed to not be able to do anything. I was really confused.
What I think the author excelled at were the relationships. All of the relationships were so complex and contrasting. Arrah loves her mother too deeply yet her mother considers her a disappointment. She has a deep connection with her grandmother but still feels like an outsider because she lives in the city instead of being with the tribe. Her father is her constant and closest companion but that relationship hits a snag and she needs to make a difficult decision. Her best friend suddenly seems like he could be more…… There are even more that I could mention but…. spoilers! Her relationships with every single person was so different. It speaks of acceptance, unconditional love, trust, and so much more. This was one of my favourite books for character relationships this year!
Yes, there is a romance, but it wasn’t one of those love at first sight romances where knees are weak and everything else in the world disappears. This was the type of romance where best friends for years suddenly realize that they have feelings for each other. I love those awkward moments where the characters aren’t sure if the other is on the same page, and they’re afraid to take the first step. A comfortable relationship takes baby steps with flirtation, making the other wonder if they’re reading too far into things (aka wishful thinking). When they finally realize that they might want to take their relationship a step further, things start happening that get in the way of that step. These are the types of romances I live for!
This book would have been a solid 5 stars if I didn’t struggle with the magic system and the timeline. I figured out the timeline eventually but then it created tiny plot holes that left me wondering a little bit. It also felt a little bit repetitive at times. But still – it kept me reading really quick and gave me Children Of Blood And Bone vibes! I can’t wait for the next book in the series. Maybe it will have all the things that I was craving!
Thank you so much to Harper Collins Canada (HCC Frenzy/Harper Voyager) for the chance to read this in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own and are uninfluenced.
Until next time, happy reading!