Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron | The unexpected DNF and what didn’t work for me in this new YA fantasy!

Such a promising concept, but… You’ll see my Goodreads “history” of reading this book and understand just how much of a pain it was to actually read it. I don’t want to say that I understand why other people might love it. Because, honestly, I don’t. But at the same time, I don’t think that this book is bad. However, it had a lot of issues, that I couldn’t just overlook. 

I felt so excited and happy to have my “wish granted” on NetGalley, as that rarely happens and this book sounded amazing. So I’m slightly disappointed that it wasn’t my cup of tea.


goodreads blurb:

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.


GOODREADS  | AMAZON UK – US |  BOOKDEPOSITORY  | AUTHOR’S WEBSITE

Arrah was born in one of the most powerful families of her tribe. But still, magic didn’t want to come to her. She wasn’t completely magic-less, like some of the people who were so desperate to at least feel the whiff of magic once in their lifetime that they eagerly traded their years for it. Arrah could sense and see magic, but it often just slipped past her fingers into the world, leaving Arrah disappointed in herself as each year passed and she still couldn’t get hold of her magic. 

WHAT I LIKED:

1 – The world that Rena Barron created was very intricate, detailed and interesting. This was probably the only thing that (A) drew me in the story and (B) kept me reading to try and find out more about the world. 

The various tribes, magical abilities, rituals, political power and social classes influenced by magic and non-magic holders – all of this was new (at least to me), exciting and fascinating to learn about. 

However, the execution of world-building wasn’t the best. And while I loved to learn about all of the above elements, I didn’t want the information to be dumped on me. At 20% into the book, I already felt the need to have a pen and paper closeby at all time so I could write down all the important events that took place in the history of this nation. 

I also needed a vocabulary. I’m not sure if the physical copy has a vocabulary, as I was reading this book on my Kindle, but it definitely needs one. There were too many foreign words that were hard to grasp the meaning of just from the context in which they were used. 

As I’m already talking about some negative elements, let’s move on to the things I didn’t love about this book.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:

1 – The main character was a whiny teen with “mother problems”. This might be harsh, but OMG… Arrah was the blandest main character I’ve read about in a long time. So who is Arrah and what defines her?

  1. She has no magic;
  2. The problem of being magicless is constantly brought up by her and everyone around her;
  3. For the first 30% of the book, the “magicless” story was the main plot element;
  4. Then things suddenly switched to her love interest. 
  5. And finally to the big bad monster that is her mother. 

None of these are spoilers. As basically from the first pages you learn that Arrah has no magic, but is hopeful to finally get it. She always calls her mother by her name and often describes how distant and condescending she is, even towards her own daughter. 

2 – From the very beginning, the reader starts seeing the mother as this bad monster. And I didn’t like it. The story focuses a lot on the problematic mother-daughter relationship. There are a lot of elements that the readers will only discover at the latter points of the book concerning their relationship, and its background. So I don’t want to talk too much about it to not spoil anything. 

Let’s just say that the relationships within Arrah’s family were very messed up and I didn’t care enough about any of the characters to want to find out how it all gets resolved. 

3 – It felt like Rena Barron had too many ideas that she tried to cramp into one story. Most of the problems that I had with this book could be fixed with editing. This is a 500 pages first book in a trilogy (maybe series?), and all the ideas were there, they just needed more work. Maybe they could space them out a little bit more. Maybe the info dump could be milder on the reader. 

As you can see from my GoodReads activity, I shelved this book as “currently reading” 2 months ago! It’s a YA fantasy which should have been a quick and exciting read, but I struggled so much even through the first 30%.

Maybe I missed something and this is the most epic YA fantasy of 2019. I don’t know! Since I DNF’s this book at 50% I won’t be giving it any rating. I’d love to know if you read this book or heard anything about it. Let me know in the comments below!



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8 thoughts on “Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron | The unexpected DNF and what didn’t work for me in this new YA fantasy!

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