Searching for a decent present can be a stressful thing, especially when the shopping centre is also a short while from closing and other shops outside have started to have their shutters brought down. Nick Spencer is just such a person who has that daunting feeling he just won't find that perfect gift for his step mum that night, and even after ringing his sister he is still fast running out of options. Concerned he'll look a cheapskate only giving his mum a card, he wanders down an alleyway and comes to a dark building with a sign that reads; Bargains, strolling into an Aladdin's cave of orbs, immediately entranced by their beauty and magic Nick picks them up one after the other and peers inside to find they all contain different images with the glass surface, some disturbing, some not, but his interest in them brings the shop keeper, a Mr. Grey to him asking which one he wants. Nick is caught off guard, and in his moment of decision he considers that he might not have the money to pay for something he sees as highly prized - and Mr. Grey ends his anxiety by asking him for one of his sketches once he finds out he is artistic. He gives it up freely enough not realising that he has not just given up a piece from his sketchbook, but his artistic talent as well - which Mr. Grey thinks is fitting payment for such a desirable thing as the orb.
Nick can't help but feel more anxiety as his artistic ability has been drained from him; he has his art exam soon, and needs to get some course work finished, but how can he when his inspiration and ability has been sapped from him? Nick is left with no other option than to return to the shop and work for Mr. Grey as his debt collector when he tells him he wants the sketch back, yet thinks he has walked right into a trap, a devilish one that could send him insane. Thinking his situation is getting worse, he has a bracelet around his wrist which burns and informs him when he should go collect the several debts and he is constantly having to make excuses to the teachers when he has to go - lucky enough for him he is such a good kid they don't have a problem letting him leave. What he doesn't plan is his sister's interference and her finding he wears a strange bracelet made from unusually dark metal, one with an eye inside a six-pointed star.
EE Richardson, author of such titles as The Devil's Footsteps, The Intruders and The Summoning definitely excels herself with this story. Aimed at children of 11 years and over the adult reviewing it actually found the subject matter extremely interesting. It might sound like a rehash of Stephen King's bestseller, Needful Things, but it's not like the idea has been taken - this is a completely new telling of it for a much younger audience. Characters such as Nick, Katie and Mr. Grey are all believable in their own way, and their dialogue is able to draw the reader into the story easily.
As a reader you are able to immerse yourself in the story as the characters are brought to life, you can be Nick forging ahead, deeply worried that he might be found out he's working for Mr. Grey by his parents, teachers or worse, his classmates. His feeling that he is alone in his predicament goes all the way through the novel, and in a way, Katie discovering his bracelet starts Nick's finding out a way of severing the contract he has with the evil shop keeper with the help of a certain someone. It's a fast-paced horror that builds the tension steadily though Nick's feelings about being a slave to Mr. Grey and his shop grow worse all the time. What becomes more interesting is the orb Nick finally chooses as a present for his step mum later has an effect on the house only he knows about.
The Soul Trade is a captivating piece that will certainly have readers wanting to purchase his other novels after reading this one.
Review by Sandra Scholes
7/10 from 1 reviews
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