'Reaper of Souls' is book two in the Kingdom of Souls trilogy by Rena Barron. A series already optioned for film by Michael B. Jordan's production company, it traverses multiple worlds and is inspired by tales of voodoo and folk magic. Even the first like of the blurb is full of intrigue.
"A prince repelled by magic. A king bent on revenge. A witchdoctor who does not walk alone."
Of course, I'm late to the party and didn't read book one, but it was very easy to catch-up on what the characters had been through in the early pages.
Arrah is the last surviving witchdoctor. Betrayed by family, she finally has the ability to wield magic, but the cost was steep. The kingdom is in chaos and she can't even touch the one she loves.
While Arrah journeys across the tribal lands in search of survivors from the demons' attack, Rudjek scours the land for the demon army's hold.. uncovering a plot that would destroy them all. The Demon King wants Arrah and time is running out to stop him.
This is a very fast-paced story, so the pages just fly by. From the opening scenes as Arrah is returning to the Kingdom's seat of power, there's a feeling of urgency around her. The city is full of unrest with some citizens rallying against the new King and some in staunch support of him. Not everyone is thrilled to see Arrah and her entourage either, but the ones that matter to her are a different story.
Rudjek is charismatic and bold, the moment he enters the scene.. but his insecurities make him charming too. As a craven, he has special skills of his own and they aren't always a boon.. but they do seem to come with a fun set of guardians and the dynamics between both those within his group and Arrah's is really entertaining. Plenty of sarcasm to feed my snarky soul.
Arrah's.. complications are many, but they're very creative concepts. I loved the magic system and overall magical elements in this book, which are a vast, deeply developed mix of wild imagination and a very old way of life.
The cast is full of beautiful, likeable, richly portrayed characters and at various times I found myself loathe to choose a side. Barron does an excellent job of conveying everyone's reasons for their actions to the reader, making it all the more understandable from every angle.. and much harder to accept when someone fails.
My only complaint is a small one. In the attempt to create a twisty tale, there are simply too many 'gotcha' moments. Not to the point that they're hard to follow, just to the point they stop having as much impact.. but honestly that's a problem widespread across media these days.. and purely a preferential issue for me. Definitely not a deal-breaker.
Honestly though, that's the only thing I felt could have been better. The book left me deeply torn as the characters on all sides had become so important to me.
I'm eager for more. Don't miss this series!