Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron reviewed

Kingdom of Souls Book Cover Kingdom of Souls
Rena Barron
HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction
September 3, 2019

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

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.

What a good opening there is to Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron – it had shivers running down my spine. Arrah’s parents are witchdoctors however it seems as though she will never get magic herself. She is in her teens and magic has still not come to her. However something evil may be coming that will affect her, her family and her friends. Will she be able to deal with it without magic or will she have to take a darker path? The book follows Arrah and her family as the Kingdom’s children start to disappear. There are also signs that the long imprisoned Demon King is stirring. I was hooked!

Initially Arrah seems to be a fairly ordinary teenager. She loves her father dearly but finds her mother rather cold. She likes being with her friends some of whom already have magic powers. There is a boy who she likes too. Other than the opening this started to feel like something a little more ordinary if fairly colourful. The settings, customs and life generally are wonderfully described and gave me a feeling of being there. There is quite a bit to understand in this book – magic and magical creatures are not generally the sort of ones I’ve met before but I found the discovery interesting.

BANG – then Kingdom of Souls starts to get more magically and the roller coaster begins. You really do need to hang on – your very being is at risk. I found this became a book that was increasingly hard to put down. It also becomes very very intense and even a somewhat upsetting read at times.

There is an unmistakeable African feel to this which I really enjoyed. Reading around a little I realise that some of the magic in this book is normal in African based tales. This book definitely makes me want to read more of this kind of writing so my thanks to the author for that.

There is a real feeling of evil here which you don’t come across all that often; this indicates a very high quality of writing. I guess because I’d not read anything African based this felt genuinely fresh to me. Coming from a European perspective I felt the end (really unputdownable) had some element of Norse like mythology ultimately. I do see some criticisms of this and maybe it isn’t perfect. For me though Kingdom of Souls was a book I simply loved so a possible 4.5 star is very happily rounded up and I would love to read this author’s next book.

“so dark, so magical, so desperate”

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review