Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron
What It’s About:
Children have gone missing in the Kingdom and Arrah is desperate to find out what is happening to them. She wants so badly to help but her lack of magic limits her ability to help with finding the children. Being the daughter of powerful and renowned witchdoctors, Arrah is a disappointment to her mother and is looked down on by many others in the kingdom. She decides to take matters into her own hands by trading years of her life for magic, an act that is forbidden and dangerous. With her new powers, Arrah makes a shocking discovery that shatters her entire world and now forces of evil threaten the safety of everything that she cares about. It takes all of Arrah’s magic, willpower, and loyal friends to make a stand to protect her kingdom.
What I liked:
My number one favorite thing was the villain! Efiya’s character was conniving, sinister, and spine chilling. I enjoyed reading her part in the story. Efiya is a character I love to hate!
I also loved the relationship between Arrah and her father. They have such a strong bond and have to go through a heavy amount of hardship and loss throughout the story. I’m always happy when YA books have positive relationships between the main character and their parent(s). Sadly, she doesn’t have the same kind of relationship with her mother.
The writing and world building in this book was impressive. I got a mix of vibes that included dark mythology and magic, and African influences. The website for the book even has a content warning and you can read it here. The descriptions and scenes were so vivid that I could imagine everything so clearly. A movie was in works in 2019 (read about it here) but I haven’t come across any updates.
What I didn’t like:
I didn’t have strong connections to any of the protagonists. They were just ok. It was a struggle to like Arrah’s character. Her main flaw in this story is that she doesn’t have magic, which is a big deal since both her parents and ancestors are super powerful. Arrah constantly talks negatively about herself, and lack in magic and skills. It really bothered me after a while. As mentioned earlier, Arrah goes through traumatic and dark experiences pretty much throughout the entire book, so that could be a reason for her emotional and mental state. Towards the end, there is a plot twist that changes everything we know about Arrah and it will most likely be a part of the second book in the series (release date is February 2021).
The world building, plot, and villain made this story a winner for me. It took a little bit to get the story going, but it really was a wild ride once it did. I actually would take my Kindle with me around the house to read it while I was cooking or eating (which means I was really into it haha!) I liked that the story was creepy and dark but not so much that I would have nightmares because I’m a big chicken. I would recommend this books for readers who are interested in:
- African culture
- dark fantasy
- stories about gods vs mortals