SOUL MAGIC is a very strange book-- for multiple reasons. For starters, it's surprisingly dark. Love Spell, the original imprint this was published under which was owned by BMI(?), typically published lighter paranormal romances and fantasy romances, which were often pretty cheesy. But rape is a focal element of this book. Alanna, the heroine, is a rape survivor. She was raped by the hero's uncle just before she and the hero were supposed to get married, and got pregnant from the act. Now, her child has been kidnapped by a fae-turned-bad who is working with the evil uncle, Morfran, to take over the world.
The hero, Darrick, is a warrior who has just come back from the crusades. He's seen lots of his men die, including his brother. When he encounters Alanna, he finds out why she broke up their betrothal and also that his mother is being held prisoner by Morfran along with Alanna's son. Not only that, but Morfran is raping the hero's mother-- who is his SISTER-- while also keeping her in a basement where she's getting chewed on by rats. Holy shit.
There's also some pretty brutal fight scenes in this book. This one dude's heart explodes out of his chest when he's attacked by black magic. There's also dark riders from hell who stink of sulfur that are chasing the heroes around at one point until they banish them by joining hands and releasing magic. Tonally, I feel like the book ends up all over the place as a result, because the children characters are so cute that they verge on precious, and all of the romances are pretty, um, saccharine. The secondary romance actually has more conflict than the main one, as it features another fae woman with Darrick's close friend, an extremely religious man who refuses to believe that fae aren't evil witches.
I ended up reading this to the end, desperate to see what happened, but it was a little disappointing. The ending happens way too fast and isn't very satisfying, and Morfran didn't get punished nearly enough for what he did. Instead of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it meting out of justice, I wanted on-page suffering. I actually didn't mind the repeated references to Alanna's rape because the focus is on her survival of what happened to her, and nobody shames her for it; even though it's not fun to read about, I think it's important for survivors to read stories about other survivors being portrayed as powerful, and getting the love and acceptance they deserve. (Which is all the more reason that Morfran should have suffered, imo.)
Anyway, I'm glad I read this book. Not sure I'll read more into the series but I might. It was cool to see a book set on the Isle of Man and I liked the blend of fantasy and medieval England. I probably would have liked this book more when I was a teenager though. It has an almost dark YA vibe to it.
2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars