Review: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barton

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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.

Arrah has wanted magic as long as she can remember. Her grandmother told her she’d be a powerful witchdoctor, but she’s yet to discover her magic. With her sixteenth birthday approaching, time is running out, as this is typically the last birthday for young magicians to discover their magic, and if Arrah doesn’t find it, then it’s unlikely she’ll ever possess magic.  But when something happens that changes Arrah’s world forever, she can no longer hope her magic will emerge soon – she needs magic now and will go to extreme measures to get magic, to try and save everything she holds dear.
Kingdom of Souls is a compelling story of what one girl will do to be powerful enough to defeat her enemies, save her friends and family, and subsequently learn who she is and change her fate.

This is an action-packed adventure, with an enjoyable pace that more or less made this unputdownable. I was desperate to get a moment alone or some free time to continue reading this. I’d definitely say Kingdom of Souls has been one of my favourite YA fantasy reads of the year. There’s almost a Greek tragedy angle to the storytelling of this, where it hurts, but like all Greek tragedies, they hurt but are appreciated.

I absolutely love the complexity of the villainy in this story. There’s so much to say, but I don’t trust myself not to spoil a small but relevant detail. All I’ll say is the stakes felt higher than ever, the challenges Arrah faced and the choices she had to make felt soul crushing, considering who and what she was up against.  As for Arrah, I really connected, and in many ways related to her. My heart ached for her during her low points, and I was smiling for her at her high points.

I really liked the faith and magic within this story. Barron establishes at least two differing faiths with different deities to worship, which, is very true to real life. It was interesting to read about the different Gods, demons and practices, especially when weaved together with magic. If you love stories centred on Greek, Norse mythology etc. I suspect you’ll enjoy reading this.

My only issue with this story was toward the end – it was at about 70%ish. Something happened within the story that I found rather upsetting and disappointing. It was simply too much, writing overkill, especially when the book’s climax was both brutal and magnificent. I personally didn’t feel the, err, sordid twist was necessary for both Arrah and Rudjek’s characters stories. Sadly, this is what has bumped my rating from 5 stars to 4 stars, because I genuinely felt the quality of the story was weakened by this plot event.

I’m definitely interested in looking at whatever Rena Barron writes next, and recommend this to all fantasy lovers. It truly is an excellent debut, and I am ecstatic that Kingdom of Souls will have a sequel, as I would love to return to the characters and the world Barron has created.

 

Buy It Now

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
Published: September 2019
Genre: fantasy, YA fantasy

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