#SPFBO YA Weekend: The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis
Phase 2 of The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016 is officially underway! For the six-month period from November 1, 2016 to the end of May 2017, we will be reviewing the ten finalists chosen by the blogger judges from the first phase of the competition. For full details and the list of books, see our SPFBO 2016 page.
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Series: A Dance of Dragons #1
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform (January 2014)
Author Info: kaitlyndavisbooks.com
Wendy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
“People are born to this world with their destiny already laid out before them, with a future already set—they only get to fill in the details.”
Jinji is a 16-year old girl with a unique bond to the elemental spirits. As she prepares for what should be one of the proudest moments in her life, she finds herself bound to darkness — a shadow that moves from her waking dreams into her reality and steals everything from her. She is found by a prince of the new world who shuns his royal standing, preferring adventure. He too is bound to the spirits, but unlike Jinji, his people fear such magic. Danger and secrets bind the two together as Jinji seeks answers and vengeance against the shadow that killed her people, while Prince Rhen tries to uncover a plot against his kingdom before it’s too late.
The chapters flip back and forth between the two characters’ points of view. Davis takes the time to dig deep into the their thoughts and actions, such that, by the end of the book when the action and intrigue picks up the pace, their separate perspectives are so well woven. Even when the chapters duplicate scenes, the emotional weight from each perspective adds so much more to the moment.
Considering what Jinji has lost, Davis does a good job of keeping Jinji focused on that pain, as would be expected after such tragedy, without letting her pain drag the story down. There are times when it seems like Jinji is losing that focus as she gets more and more wrapped up in Rhen’s situation, but Davis brings it back and around to tie both their fates together.
However, when things do come together in the end, there are some pacing and detail issues that become lost due to the focus on Jinji and Rhen’s perspectives alone. The political issues and the war itself become lost in the periphery because of this, which would lead to disappointment to anyone who accepted the book’s claim that it is like Game of Thrones in any way.
Further, it is wonderful to have a female protagonist of colour, and her introduction and the introduction to her culture is beautifully detailed. But the book stumbles in having that character’s entire people obliterated shortly after and having the only other people of colour villainized.
There are some issues with editing and pacing that are to be expected from a new author, but the story itself is sound and the characters are strong and endearing, so much so that when I finished reading The Shadow Soul, I promptly purchased the sequel, which is always a good sign!