Hello Humans! Welcome to today’s book review – I know Kingdom of Souls is on a number of people’s TBRs and I’m very excited to be able to review it thanks to both a NetGalley copy and a proof copy that I won at YALC!
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.
I want to preface this review with the usual disclaimer that I’m a white lady reading a book written by a woman of colour and inevitably there will have been nuances and other things that I cannot hope to appreciate in the same way that a reader of colour might. As ever, I urge you to seek out own voices reviews along with this one.
So, Kingdom of Souls, how did it go? Overall, I thought this book was good – I’m not sure that I timed reading it well because I was quite tired and coming down with illness (check out my latest reading vlog to see how that went…) so it took me a while to get into this book. This was, in hindsight, in part because of my impending illness, but also I do think this book is quite slow to start, it felt to me as though the main character took around 100 pages (of a 400-page book) to make a decision to do anything? I wouldn’t say it was a dealbreaker for this book, I’ve certainly read a number of much slower books, and the latter half of this book picked up the pace, but worth noting for those picking this up – persevere!
I personally enjoy books where the main character doesn’t have magic and has to process feeling left out – I think a lot of people can relate to not feeling as skilled as their peers (I certainly do!) and it makes for a great theme, especially for a YA book. In this case, I thought this was particularly interesting since so much of this book is to with heritage and tradition, it adds a whole additional level to this theme, with ideas about identity and belonging coming into it as well.
I wasn’t totally sold on the romance in this story – purely a matter of personal preference and timing, but I would go in expecting a ‘will they won’t they’ kind of a romance. Unlike many other YA fantasy books, it doesn’t totally take over the entire plot – but it definitely stuck with me as an element of the book I found less than amazing.
I thought that Arrah was a great main character – particularly in the latter half of the book when she started making (arguably increasingly reckless) choices. I loved that Rena Barron wrote the YA main character she would have loved to have seen – you can feel that passion and that love coming through in the descriptions of Arrah, her world and her culture. I’ll also add that this is one of the very few times I’ve seen ‘witch doctors’ done well (typically it is at best cringy and at worst incredibly racist). This is why we need ownvoices books.
One thing I definitely enjoyed was the main plot of this book, I don’t want to go into too much detail because I think it’s something you should experience for yourself, but it definitely spoke to the side of me that likes things a little creepy and with a heaping spoonful of ethical dilemma.
I think this book is great, it brings together a lot of things I enjoy about fantasy and manages to make them feel less stale than other authors do. My main criticism is that the pacing feels a tiny bit off, particularly at the start of the book, but otherwise, I thought it was wonderful. I think this is a book I will add to my ‘re-read’ shelf as I don’t doubt I’ll get something more out of it with each read.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Kingdom of Souls is out September 3rd
What say you? Is this on your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!