Soul Born is the story of the mage Opal, who possesses impressive magical gifts but is side-lined in the male-dominated academy, which she studies at. Hoping to prove her ability to those who pass her over, she jumps at the chance to finally prove her worth when the warlord Mustaffa threatens to invade.
By taking the soul of an ancient warlord and transporting it into the body of a young fisherman, it is Opal’s job to control him and help him lead a counter-attack to save the mages from falling to the enemy.
This is high-octane fantasy: people die, battles are fought, hugely destructive spells are cast and amongst this Karn, whose soul was dragged from the dying body of a warrior many ages ago, is struggling to decide whose side he is on, who he can trust, and who he actually is. Opal’s ambition is ruthless, which builds to epic clashes of magic when everything threatens to unravel, and then there’s the other love interest, an elf who wants to save Karn from those trying to manipulate him.
It’s a pretty good fantasy story, and even though I expect somewhere the transferral of souls has been used as a plot point, it’s not something I’ve come across before and it was therefore an interesting concept to develop, but I think it should have been explored further.
There are a number of things that mean that for me, this book doesn’t manage to lift itself out of the average. One is the language, which often starts to lumber, and sometimes even gets laugh-out-loud bad. At one point Karn, who is supposed to be an ancient warlord, says ‘Oh bloody hell’. Karn’s muscles ‘expand’ or ‘fill with might’ before he attacks, which just make him sound like the Incredible Hulk.
Another thing is the amount of times people keel over unconscious, which gets pretty tiresome, and sometimes there’s just a lack of explanation of what’s going on. Opal is a student, with great potential yes but the head mages don’t know that which is why she’s treated like a child. However, the invasion of Mustaffa threatens to destroy the mages, so why is she suddenly given this crucial job to do?
There’s also little information to explain why Karn and specifically his soul is so important. His past as a war leader isn’t particularly explained, and his actions throughout the book don’t strike me as being something extraordinary, he’s just a good soldier who knows how to command a force. A lot of the time the characters, especially Karn, just reel from one extreme of emotion to the next, something which I find hard to believe from a man who is supposed to have the discipline to control armies. Also at one point Opal tells him that she’s lost his armour, and for some completely inexplicable reason this spurs him into having his way with her. Really?
With an ending that neatly paves the way for a sequel, it looks like it’s only the beginning, so to sum up it’s a good story but I think a more ruthless edit, a bit more subtlety and a greater expansion of the ideas laid down would change this from an alright book to a good one.
Review by Cat Fitzpatrick
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