Arrah’s parents are both powerful witch doctors, but year after year her magic does not come. There are other ways to possess magic in this world, like trading your years for it, but such things are frowned upon. When Arrah’s grandmother sees strange visions about green-eyed serpents and children begin disappearing from her city, Arrah does what she must to figure out what is going on. This leads her and her close friends on a wild adventure that pits her against her family and makes Arrah question who she really is.
To begin with, when was the last time you read a book about witch doctors? I never have, and it was one of the main reasons I gave this novel a try. So, I guess we’ll start by talking about the magic system. It isn’t very concrete, nothing like a Brandon Sanderson magic system, but it has some specifics. You can develop the ability to call magic to you naturally, and magic seems to be all around the characters, even if they cannot see it. There are also some rituals that can be done that involve herbs, blood magic, and chanting, but again the magic isn’t explained in heavy detail, if that is what you enjoy.
The characters were one of the stronger parts of the novel, but not all of them were developed as much as I would have liked. I enjoyed Arrah the most. She’s brave, strong willed, and has a lot of perseverance, but she also has a big heart for those she loves. Arrah goes through a lot in this book and loses people close to her. Despite that she remains true to herself and fights for what she believes is right. Arrah’s love interest and her friends are less developed than her, but since the book is in first person, that is probably to be expected. We are away from her friends and in her head for a large amounts of time. I just wish we had gotten to know a few of them better so that their close friendships to Arrah would be more believable. Arrah’s parents are also important, and they had a good amount of depth too. One very interesting thing about this novel is the relationship between Arrah and her mother. Her mother is very powerful, both politically and magically, and Arrah has always wanted to impress her, but unfortunately, their relationship is very volatile and hostile.
I have to also mention the worldbuilding. I liked it a lot, but I simply wanted more of it. In this world we have witch doctors, gods, demons, magic in the air, rituals, unique tribes, and a political hierarchy. There was a lot of action and drama in this book, but I just wish it would have slowed down a little so that I could get into the world more, get to know the characters, and have more time to digest some of the major events. Sometimes it felt like there wasn’t enough time for Arrah to recover (both physically and mentally) and plan her next moves after something tragic happened. And the book gets pretty dark for a YA novel!
So, yes, the pacing was my main issue. A lot happens in this first book of a planned trilogy. In my opinion, too much happens in this first book, but I also don’t know what the author has in mind for the second and third installments. There are a lot of characters, it is hard to know who to trust, and there’s a lot of magical, god-related back story that plays a big role in the plot. With such a complex world and plot, I wanted more time to flesh out the world and characters and a little less action. I know some readers would feel differently, so if you love action and having everything thrown at you quickly, this book would be just what you’re looking for.
I found Kingdom of Souls to be a refreshing young adult novel. If you are looking for an action-packed, unique, and exciting new series, I would definitely give this a try. Also, I have to mention the book’s awesome website that includes an interactive map, a guide for the terms in the book, and even some cute quizzes to see what tribe you’re in (Tribe Zu here!) or what character you are. I gave Kingdom of Souls four out of five stars.