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Kingdom of Souls

by Rena Barron

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Kingdom of Souls (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
230589,347 (3.56)1
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.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
Kingdom of Souls has a very slow beginning and a lot of world-building to digest but with some very nice plot-twists and suspense as well. I really liked Rudjek and Arrah much more than I should have for some reason. When Arrah gets all flustered around him, I can't help but go "aww." In addition, I loved the relationship between Arrah and her father.

Now, this isn't a very satisfying story, and I'm not talking about the writing/plot. It's just Arrah's life is tragedy after tragedy. As soon as something good happens, 12 worse things rear their head. This story could possibly beat you down.

Spoiler Section:
Um... Y'know that part when there's a twisted-demonic reversal of Mary getting pregnant with Jesus. Chile, what was that!?! 0___O Aarti is something else, I tell you.

GOSH, I wanted to strangle Efiya so badly. Y'all (Rudjek and Arrah) have been acting dry as toast, and as soon as the readers about to get some payoff, the climax of their love story, URGGGGHHHH! To be honest, I wish this part hadn't even been there. The way that the whole thing went down is just terrible for all parties included (except you vile beast Efiya who I feel no sympathy for). Can you imagine being tricked into sleeping with someone who you thought was your loved one?

Efiya is bland. Don't nobody care about you.

Also, people cannot stay dead in this story for anything haha. xD


Overall, if you don't mind long stories where optimism is bleak, then I recommend it. ( )
  DestDest | Jul 29, 2020 |
This was a confusing book. I liked the characters, especially her relationship with her father, but the plot was hard to follow. That might have been because I just had surgery & I'm a little out of it, but I felt like I was missing out on major explanations. There were a lot of characters to keep track of too. ( )
  cmbohn | Feb 10, 2020 |
I really, really wanted to love Kingdom of Souls. I wanted to love it because I absolutely adore the African-inspired magical setting of Children of Blood and Bone and because Twitter is right – epic fantasy is far too whitewashed. But I can’t good conscience say that this was an amazing fantasy story or that it answers Children of Blood and Bone and that I love it because… I didn’t. I struggled through Kingdom of Souls. I appreciate the diversity and I want ALL of the different cultures in fantasy novels because to me… fantasy is fantasy and I want to devour it all. But I can’t in good conscience say “this book was amazing!” because… for me, it wasn’t.

I will admit that Kingdom of Souls had its moments.

The prologue itself was incredibly aesthetic. Arrah’s time in the tribal lands was unique and well written. In fact, there are a lot of good things going for the novel. I’ve been trying to think of the best way to explain it, and what I’ve come up with is that it’s like baking. Rena Barron has all the highest quality ingredients and they’re all there to make an amazing, tantalizing batch of cookies. But in baking, you must do things a certain way and in a certain order, or your cookies won’t come out quite right. Instead of following the recipe, Barron’s thrown all her ingredients in a bowl at the same time and is mixing them on high power. Batter’s splatting everywhere. There are too many chocolate chips. Things have gone awry. The end result will still taste good, but it won’t taste great.

It’s not about the characters, or the setting. The magic system she’s created is interesting and has consequences (yes!) but it’s also whimsical in its delivery. I’ve concluded that all the faults of this novel fall back to the writing style, and in turn, affect the pacing. Kingdom of Souls feels more like an early draft than a finished novel. There are too many extended asides to justify plot directions or character development. And there are far too many convenient events.

Take the pacing for example. It jumped all over the place. Sometimes it was incredibly slow and dragged on and on. Other times, months passed between chapters. Barron explained away these awkward transitions at one point by putting Arrah and her family in a city where time did whatever it wanted. There were many moments where I had finally gotten used to the pacing only to suddenly be in the middle of something and be unsure how I got there. I’d flip back and reread, certain I’d missed a page – but no. That’s just how the book works.

So that’s one minor example of convenience? Another would be the development of both Arti and Rudjek’s characters. Events happened to both of these characters that were supposedly instrumental to the plot, but from a (jaded) reader’s perspective, I didn’t buy it. To avoid spoilers, I can’t say precisely want it was about Rudjek that drove me crazy, but I’m never a fan of casually twisting characters’ fates for story advancement when there are many other more sensible (if less dramatic) paths. And Arti completely broke character at the end of the book and I believe Barron was trying to give her some sort of redemption moment, but it was so out of the blue and uncharacteristic that it simply didn’t work.

I should also mention that there are chapters from the POV of supernatural beings. This is fine, but stylistically these chapters are jarring. They’re written in italics (again, fine) and without proper punctuation in dialogue. Not all the supernatural asides had dialogue, but the asides that did made me cringe because of the chosen style and definitely took me out of the world. Also, none of these chapters helped or advanced the story – early ones distracted – and could have been cut to help tighten the novel.

It was things like that which made me struggle through the book. I’m objective enough to see deep down there’s an excellent story here. Unfortunately, the unrealistic conveniences gave it a fan fiction feel, and the telling nature of world building and backstory made pacing inconsistent and felt like unnecessary threads that distracted from the story. Kingdom of Souls read to me like a middle draft… it’s definitely edited and generally good in its bones, but it really needed to be tightened up before publication because while there’s a dark fantasy in there, it’s covered in random flashbacks and moments where Barron decided not to follow through on the consequences of some of her in-story choices.

Just… generally… this isn’t the worst fantasy I’ve read and like I said in the intro paragraph, seeing other cultures represented in fantasy was great. I always have a difficult time giving diverse books a low rating because I want to support these authors in a world that seems dead set on putting them down. But taking aside the culture that inspired the fantasy (which was wonderful, honestly) and the characters’/author’s ethnicity, this book was a bit of a mess as far as style and technique goes. I am not inspired to pick up the next in the series.

But! It is a diverse fantasy and many people are enjoying it, so if you’re curious, it’s worth a read. I read a LOT of fantasy – it’s sort of my thing – so I’m particular about the rules of universes and what I like to see in these novels. Many of my pet peeves from Kingdom of Souls may not be apparent to a less frantic reader, so therefore, it’s worth a go. ( )
  Morteana | Jan 27, 2020 |
This is a great story, diverse with mythology within it that is very different from anything else I have read. Sadly, while I enjoyed it, I could not devour it as one might expect. There is a repetitiveness to the syntax that grew tiresome, plus the characters remain fairly one-dimensional. There are one too many pages where nothing happens. While it has gods, spirits, magic, and demons with a fight that transcends generations, I kept falling asleep every few pages and felt no compulsion to keep reading.
1 vote jmchshannon | Dec 28, 2019 |
This is the first book in The Kingdom of Souls trilogy. I got an eGalley from Edelweiss to review (thanks to HarperTeen for the copy!) This is one of those annoying books that I tried and tried to read. I kept sitting down to read it, getting through a couple pages, and then getting distracted because I just could not get into the story. I got about 30% of the way through before giving it up.

This story follows Arrah. Arrah is a young woman who desperately wants to have her magic power develop (she comes from a line of powerful witches). However, year after year Arrah remains devoid of magic. As signs of demon activity increase in her homeland, she decides on a desperate course of action...she will trade years of her own life for magic in order to combat this evil.

I am having a hard time pinpointing what I didn’t like about this story. I think it was a mix of the slow paced story and Barron’s writing style. The story itself is pretty typical YA, I was looking forward to the witch doctor parts of it and some history around that...unfortunately that was in the story very little.

I don’t have a ton to say about this one. Nothing really grabbed me here. Some of the witch doctor stuff was interesting but it was a very small part of the story. I really struggled at trying to get through this one.

Overall this just was not for me. It was too typical YA fantasy, moved too slow, I couldn’t get into the flow of the writing, and I had a horrible time trying to stay engaged in this one. A lot of people are loving it but I am not one of them. ( )
1 vote krau0098 | Jul 9, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rena Barronprimary authorall editionscalculated
Adegbesan, AdeyemiCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stempel-Lobell, JennaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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.

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