Book Review

Review: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

This book is dark, gritty, ugly and exciting fantasy. It’s a complex, richly-imagined world and takes a no-holds barred approach to both the story and characters.

Title: Kingdom of Souls

Author: Rena Barron

Pages: 496

Publication Date: 3rd September 2019

Publisher: HarperVoyager

THERE’S MAGIC IN HER BLOOD.

Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.

There’s magic in her blood – and this is a story of blood magic, witchdoctors and deep, deep betrayal.

The Kingdom and the tribal lands are two hugely complex societies that Rena Barron somehow manages to explain clearly or, at least, explain through contined displays of power, conflict and magic throughout this novel. Whether that is the edam, or the face off between the Ka-Priestess and the Grand Vizier, or the Blood Moon festival, these were all fantastic elements of a thoroughly complex society.

Arrah is a powerful heroine, who slowly comes into her own across the novel. I occasionally found her ‘YA’ voice frustrating – she frequently repeats what’s happened to herself, why she’s so angry, why she’s so betrayed, what she’s going to do … and then does something completely different. However, I can forgive her the majority of this. Likewise, her romance with Rudjek was both a perfect summary of a teenager’s infatuation, but also a YA distraction from a powerful story.

However, I can forgive virtually all of this because there is so much grim complexity and desperation to Arrah’s story, as well as that of her family, who are both caught up in and drive the narrative.

I did wish that there had been more development of this aspect of family in the later part of the novel – admittedly this would probably double an already hefty novel, and was reasonably solved by the strange passage of time (which I loved), but I would have really appreciated further development in this area – I say no more, because, spoilers.

There was something like a forgotten memory about so much of Kingdom of Souls for me – so many elements drew out ideas of forgotten fairy stories or folk tales and felt like a half-imagined dream. Although a gritty and dark one at that.

I’m definitely looking forward to see what can happen next.

4 stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I recived an ARC of this book from NetGalley and HarperVoyager in exchange for an honest review.

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