Kingdom of Souls-What Would You Do to Save Your World?
In Kingdom of Souls, Rena Barron has created a world inspired by the ancestors and the Orisha. I love all the books that are being written by Black authors that depict a history from which we were ripped. The gods, tribes, festivals, and rituals are all recreated to give us a fantastical glimpse into a culture and a way of life that would have been ours.
Arrah is of tribe Mulani and Aatiri, but feels out of place in both. Although magic is quite strong in both bloodlines, Arrah has not been so blessed. This has caused her to question her purpose and worthiness. What exactly is she lacking, she is able to sense and detect magic, so why is she passed over year after year at the Blood Moon Festival, why does Heka not bless her with magic? Both her parents are powerful witchdoctors, her father with herbs and her mother, the Ka-Priestess in the Almighty Kingdom.
After another disappointing year of being passed over, Arrah returns to Tamar and gets pulled into the mystery of the disappearing children, when her close friend goes missing. Who is stealing the children and why? Soon rumours of the return of anti-magic and demons sweep through the street and Arrah does something forbidden in order to uncover the child snatcher, but what she learns changes what she thought she knew. By her side is Rudjek, son of her mother's political enemy, but so much more to Arrah. Although neither have admitted it, they harbour deep feelings for each other, but are not quite sure how to declare it.
Arrah has a wonderful, loving relationship with her father. He does not see her lack of magic as a shortcoming, and teaches her another way of magic-blood medicine. Oshe loves his daughter and his devotion is shown whenever they interact, especially when he tell her stories. On the other hand, her mother is cold, distant and quite disappointed at her daughter's absence of any magic whatsoever. This makes their relationship strained and any interaction becomes almost like a business transaction.
Through a dark, twisted ritual, Arti brings a life into the world to tip the scales in favour of the Demon King. But controlling the impulses of this child-demon is harder than she bargained for and learns that they each have different ideas of achieving the final outcome. Arrah has not given up on finding some way of destroying her mother's schemes, she just seems determined to not tap into her inner strength to do so, but would rather trade years for magic to accomplish the task set before her. And even with the helping hand of an orisha, Arrah continues to doubt herself.
Barron builds a vivid world giving us family dynamics, Orisha-tribal relationships and rituals, political rivalry, friendships, betrayal, romance and a dark mystery. And brewing on the horizon, two orishas, each with a different endgame in mind for the mortals. We are presented with a flawed heroine, a young girl who has lost hope of ever coming into her magical inheritance, trying to understand why she has been rejected by Heka, all while failing to understand her true power, her true magic. As Arrah takes on forces beyond her power, she finally steps into her true legacy.
I enjoyed this novel immensely, it is jam-packed with magic and devious plots for power and revenge, hints of romance, bonds of family and friendship and most importantly strong female characters, whether they stand for good or come at the head of a great evil.