Title: Kingdom Of Souls (Kingdom Of Souls #1)
Author: Rena Barron
Pub. Date: September 19th 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Voyager
🖤ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review🖤
Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron is exactly the type of YA Fantasy I look forward to reading whenever I pick up a debut author. On the YA scale this definitely leans more towards darker & more mature, it will appeal to those who enjoy adult Fantasy. Inspired by the authors West African ancestors, the world in which Kingdom of Souls is set in is very expansive. The magic system & world building is detailed and complex, the characters are multi-faceted as are their deities. At the center of the story we have Arrah who is the daughter of a High Priestess & Witch Doctor. In this world you come into your magical abilities between the ages of 0-16. However, Arrah hasn’t seen not even a stirring of her magic and fears that this will make her an outcast.
“I’m sixteen, near grown by both kingdom & tribal standards. My time is running out. No daughter or son of any tribe has come into their gifts beyond my age. if it doesn’t happen this year, it won’t happen at all.”
The five tribes in this land were said to have been gifted their magic by Heka who is their God. We follow Arrah as she attends celebrations for those who are coming into their powers in hopes she too will blessed by Heka. Her entire family carries powerful magic within but it’s her mother Arti alone who cannot accept Arrah’s lack of magic. Their strained and toxic relationship plays out throughout this book in a way I’ve never seen written before. We see Arrah have a very different & nurturing relationship with her father who tries to get her to understand that magic is not the end all be all. In the midst of it all we learn of children that have gone missing and a Demon King who is rising. This all serves to give Arrah an intense sense of urgency. She sets out to find other more dangerous ways to obtain magic in order to defend & protect her people. This of course bears a steep price to pay, an unknown amount of years shed from your life in exchange for magic. Arrah is determined to do whatever it takes to stop children from going missing & the Demon King from from fully coming into power.
This year has seen many debut YA Fantasies hit the shelves with all sorts of original stories & diverse sets of characters. I LOVED that this world although fantastical, is West African inspired with a cast of all black main characters. I also have a very HIGH appreciation for authors who steer clear of info dumping & instead deliver complex world building in a way that says they trust their readers. I never got tired of the story or lost interest, the only thing I would’ve liked to have seen is an index of some sort to keep track of all the tribes in this world & the deities. I can easily see (or at least I hope) this being a ongoing series because of how rich the world building is. I also loved seeing how much support Arrah really had even when she thought she was alone. I did NOT see that last portion of the book coming! it left me reeling for days wondering where these characters will go from here. It did not surprise me one bit to hear Kingdom of Souls has been picked up by Warner Brothers studios (see here) & will be produced by Michael B. Jordan. I will definitely be picking up the next installment in this trilogy.
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