Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron. September 3, 2019. HarperTeen, 485 p. ISBN: 9780062870957. Int Lvl: YA.
A girl with no gifts must bargain for the power to fight her own mother’s dark schemes—even if the price is her life.
Heir to two lines of powerful witch doctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. Yet she fails at bone magic, fails to call upon her ancestors, and fails to live up to her family’s legacy. Under the disapproving eye of her mother, the Kingdom’s most powerful priestess and seer, she fears she may never be good enough.
But when the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, Arrah is desperate enough to turn to a forbidden, dangerous ritual. If she has no magic of her own, she’ll have to buy it—by trading away years of her own life.
Arrah’s borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal, and on its heels, a rising tide of darkness that threatens to consume her and all those she loves. She must race to unravel a twisted and deadly scheme… before the fight costs more than she can afford.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes, Violence
Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
A teenage girl ashamed of her lack of magic must step up when she discovers evil at work in her kingdom. Privileged Arrah has never wanted for anything—except magic. Though she comes from powerful magical lineages on both her parents’ sides, when she turns 16 without developing any gifts, she must finally admit she won’t be blessed with magic. Heartbroken, Arrah throws herself into discovering who’s behind the recent child abductions in her kingdom. The magic needed to accomplish such a task has a high cost, and her discovery of the culprit proves to be a devastating revelation. In Arrah’s West African–based world, there are orishas as well as other gods and demons, and orishas are able to converse directly with humans. Arrah, aided by her friends (including love interest Rudjek), must mine hitherto unknown depths in herself in order to stop the ascension of the Demon King, who supposedly was vanquished by the orishas long ago. Though the pace is sometimes slow and the page count perhaps higher than needed, Arrah’s a compelling heroine, relatable in her fallibility, and her story is intriguing. Most characters are black; Rudjek is biracial (his light-skinned mother and a handful of other characters hail from the north). An imperfect but promising series opener. (Fantasy. 12-18)
School Library Journal (August 1, 2019)
Gr 9 Up-Legend has it that the orisha destroyed all of the demons in the Almighty Kingdom, but when children begin to disappear from the Kingdom and a great evil looms, it seems that perhaps the orisha were wrong. And if they were wrong about this, where else have they failed? Sixteen-year-old Arrah is the daughter of two powerful witch doctors in a long lineage of magic. For as long as she can remember, she has waited to come into magic of her own, and though she has the ability to see magic, she cannot touch it. Magic in the Kingdom, however, can be acquired at a cost. Will Arrah be willing to give up years of her life in exchange for the magic that might be able to save the people she loves? In this epic West African-inspired debut, Barron weaves a story filled with blood magic, political intrigue, epic world-building, and a brilliant cast of characters. VERDICT Fans of folklore-inspired fantasy and Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer will relish in this masterful tale. From start to finish, this magical debut is not to be missed.-India Winslow, Cary Memorial Library, Lexington, MA
About the Author
Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.
Her website is renabarron.com.
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