Soul of the World by David Mealing – Review

Cover- Soul of the World

Published: June 27, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Ascension Cycle #1

Pages: 656 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A brilliant debut epic fantasy with a unique magic system and unforgettable characters.

It is a time of revolution. in the cities, food shortages stir citizens to riots against the crown. In the wilds, new magic threatens the dominance of the tribes. and on the battlefields, even the most brilliant commanders struggle in the shadow of total war. Three lines of magic must be mastered in order to usher in a new age, and three heroes must emerge.

Sarine is an artist on the streets of New Sarresant whose secret familiar helps her uncover bloodlust and madness where she expected only revolutionary fervor.

Arak’Jur wields the power of beasts to keep his people safe, but his strength cannot protect them from war amongst themselves.

Erris
is a brilliant cavalry officer trying to defend New Sarresant from an enemy general armed with magic she barely understands.

Each must learn the secrets of their power in time to guide their people through ruin. But a greater evil may be trying to stop them.


Honestly, I’ve been eager to read Soul of the World since I stumbled across it on Goodreads several months ago and had high expectations. I’m glad to say that overall it lived up to my hopes and, though not quite perfect, it was a riveting debut. It’s got everything I could possibly want in a fantasy book- a complex magic system, battles, and the comforting trope of the chosen one, though in this case it’s chosen ones.

Set in a colonial, flintlock fantasy era, Soul of the World provides a fascinating reflection of North American colonialism with more than a dash of French Revolution stirred into the mix as well. Personally, I love this era with all its finery and cries of egalité in the streets. There’s such upheaval and it lends itself quite well to a fantasy story. The need for a leader or hero in New Serresant is an opening that anyone with enough charisma or influence can fill which isn’t necessarily a good thing for anyone involved. While the elite are embroiled in their machinations, the soldiery is up against a foe that seems to know their every move, and the streets of New Serresant are about to erupt in riots. People are crying out for equality and a proper meal. All in all, it’s a rather compelling setting and atmosphere conducive to a tale of epic proportions and I haven’t even mentioned the tribes that exist beyond the Veil! The tribes were fascinating and had just as much as drama as the pseudo-European nobility found in the colonies. I’m glad to see the tribes played a significant role in the story and didn’t fall by the wayside as the colonial drama unfolded.

The magic system in Soul of the World is comparable to the story line in its complexity. It doesn’t overwhelm at the beginning and the reader is introduced to new concepts in digestible amounts. I found that as the story progressed it got more and more confusing because the basic rules (which were vague) were no longer applicable. Let me give you a brief and simplified overview. First of all, you have Binders which use the energies found along leylines to summon power. They can enhance their senses, break bindings, set things on fire, and heal to name a few abilities. Second we have the tribal people’s gifts which are more varied and rely on spirits. Guardians gain the blessing of beast spirits each time they defeat a great beast, meaning they can mimic its abilities. Shamans can see the future and the women have elemental magic. Lastly we have those individuals like Sarine, who has an invisible companion called a kaas, which is a gem-like serpent creature that grants her some unique powers. Like I said, this is much simplified but you can begin to see how much of a role magic plays in Soul of the World.

Soul of the World was an excellent debut and a fine addition to my book collection. The whole point of the book is to introduce readers to the characters that will possibly be ascending to a semblance of godhood. The interludes give readers a glimpse of those who currently hold that title and how they work to hinder or help those that may replace them. I found the introduction to the larger purpose to be somewhat unenlightened and felt that it really needed more than a bare handful of chapters to really make me care. The characters however… I loved the characters. Each of the main POV’s was inherently good and very likable. Erris d’Arrent and Sarine were awesome, though I wish the two could have properly met and had a nice chat together. Arak’Jur, guardian of the Sinari tribe, was just so darn honorable! Even the secondary characters were well-written and I would love to have had POVs for a few of them, especially Reyne d’Agarre. If you’ve debate whether or not to invest your time in this rather hefty book, you can stop now. It was a top-notch read that I would highly recommend and can’t wait to see where the sequel will lead!

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