Monday, June 21, 2021

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron


My friends and I have been trading bags of books back and forth and this was one of the books I got in my bag. I was actually excited to read this one because of all the reviews complaining that it was too dark. As someone whose soul screams for all things twisted and disturbing in fiction, I was like "YAAAASS GIMME." And the book did deliver on that note, so if you are also one of those people who wishes that YA was a bit more intense, this is the book for you.

The plot of KINGDOM OF SOULS is a bit confusing. Arrah, the heroine, is the daughter of a powerful priestess but has no magic of her own, much to her mother's shame. At first, the story is really slow and full of exposition and I wasn't all that into it, but it picks up when children in her community start disappearing and the Demon King shows up, choosing someone unsuspected as his would-be ally. There are not one, but TWO villains in this book and both of them are completely terrifying, so there's that. In order to stop them, Arrah has to exchange years of her own life for magic-- a terrible price to pay.

The second half of the book makes up for the slow first half. There's all kinds of triggers, though. Mind rape, actual rape (someone dons the appearance of someone else to have sex with someone), mutilation, murder of children, and various other things that I've probably forgotten or skimmed over. I personally didn't think anything was over the top and some of the violence and sexual content is only alluded to, or done with a couple of details, but the one of these that upset me the most was the rape w/ disguise because the heroine is so completely unsympathetic to it and treats the rape victim like a cheater because they didn't magically see through the rapist's magical disguise. So there's that.

Overall, though, I liked this book. I don't think it needed to be as long as it did-- five hundred pages is pretty long for a YA debut and not all of the content felt necessary. Pacing-wise, it's pretty back-heavy, so by the time you get towards the end of the book, it's like being backhanded with twist after twist. It does end with resolution and a sort of cliffhanger, and I am curious to see where the author goes from here. There's a couple West African-inspired fantasy novels that have been coming out over the last few years and so far, I think this is my favorite so far. Looking forward to seeing what happens next.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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