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.
Trigger warnings: Blood magic, death of a child, death in battle scenes, mention of animal sacrifice (not on page), mind manipulation, parental abuse, an act of a sexual nature that occurs when a character tricks another character while disguising their appearance, and violence.
I’m not being overdramatic when I said this is one of my most anticipated reads this year. I’ve been mentioning this book on my two previous posts because I’m that excited. Ever since I read the premise and knowing the fact that it’s an #OwnVoices debut book, I know I need to read it immediately. But, from the trigger warnings above, it’s obvious that Kingdom of Souls is not going to be an easy read.
This aspect is the most amazing part in Kingdom of Souls. I’m always a sucker when it comes to not just a new universe, but also a detailed, magical, and very-well explained one. It was without a doubt that Barron poured her heart and Ka (tribal common tongue for “soul.”) within this universe and I’m completely blown away by how everything works. If you’re like me and you’re reading the ARC of this book, I’d suggest you to go to the book’s website to gaze over the beautiful world of the kingdom. I’m pretty sure the map will be included in the finished copy, so don’t worry!
Some people can pull magic from the fabric of the world. Some can coax magic to come with rituals and spells. Many can’t call magic at all.
Being the opposite of its extraordinary worldbuilding, the plot in Kingdom of Souls could be better. During the earlier chapters, the pace was incredibly dynamic and I feel as if everything happened so fast, in a good way that I found myself to enjoyed every second of it. But then it got slower. Too slow that I found it shocking. I’m not a fan of this atmosphere’s turnover and I keep flipping the page while whispering to myself, “Okay, interesting backstory of too many forgettable side characters… but what it’s gotta do with Arrah?”.
Don’t get caught in the shadows, for a demon waits to steal your soul. The younger the soul, the sweeter the feast.
As a character-oriented reader, I don’t mind with five to ten characters. The thing with big group of characters is… it’s either a hit or a miss. I’m afraid to say that Kingdom of Souls is leaning more toward the latter. I only engaged with a few characters and although I wanted to, I simply don’t care for the rest because I couldn’t relate to them. I also often forgot their names because there were too many of them. Hopefully, a characters list will be included in the final copy of this book, but since I only read the unfinished copy, that’s how I felt about it.
And as for the relationships among the characters, my favorite one is between Arrah and her father. It was genuine and pure. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way with Arrah’s romantic relationship with one of the characters in this book. Although it took quite a big appearance within the story, I just couldn’t sense their chemistry, and at the end, it just felt unsettling.
But one thing for sure, I loved the diversity in this story. There was diversity within the diversity and I applauded Barron for that. Often times, a book considered as diverse when it featured one African or one Asian character. But the truth is, no one is just African or Asian. There are many sub-countries and sub-cultures within these countries that people often missed.
I once laughed at stories about demons, and now I know that one may walk in my shadows. She does not mean well.
Although I enjoyed this debut, I’m not going to lie that it felt overwheming at times. The intricate universe was definitely not easy to digest in instance. I’m thinking about picking up this book again in the future because I know there was many potential in it.
Thank you to the author and The FFBC for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
about the author
Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventuresparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, shegraduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena loves all thingsscience fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimedspace nerd. Whenshe’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French. Followher at @renathedreamer and renabarron.com.
Rena prefers not to be tagged in reviews to save her sanity.
She is represented by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.