Publisher: Orbit Books
Release Date: March 19th, 2019
Page Count: 647
Series: THE KEEPERS, Book 1
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars – Liked It
Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, a traveling warrior-priest tasked with helping villages with everything from bandits to plagues to making sure that souls move on properly to the afterlife. But when a dark water floods the land, Devin finds the world has changed much more than anyone realized. Creatures once thought to be myth roam the woods, and prayers once thought to bring only solace now have actual power to affect the world. Worst of all, a terrible being has begun prowling the city of Londheim, intent on brutally murdering the priests of the Three Sisters. Devin will have to work with human and fae alike if the city is going to stand any chance of surviving the new world order.
SOULKEEPER starts from a beautifully atmospheric place, as Devin Eveson works in tiny town in the middle of a snowy nowhere, overseeing the rituals that send souls to the afterlife. The sequences as Devin tries to survive on his own after devastating events, encountering creatures both friendly and..not so friendly, are some of the best parts of the book. Devin and his brother-in-law Tommy both have an appropriate sense of wonder as they realize fairy tales have been hiding a sense of truth.
Eventually, though, Devin returns to the central city of Londheim, and from there I felt like the book was content to travel along at a steady pace without ever feeling like it was ramping up to a final climactic moment. Your enjoyment of SOULKEEPER is going to depend on how much you’re invested in the central premise from this point forward: an entire city of people dealing with the world being turned on its head, with creatures killing people in the street, a mountain materializing outside of the city, and magic spells working where before they were the stuff of nonsense. It was almost a slice-of-life kind of feeling, as Devin, Tommy, and Devin’s sister Adria try to cope with new circumstances and encounter one strange event after another in a very episodic feel. There’s definitely a big moment that concludes the book, but it didn’t feel like the book was driving towards that point, just that it happened. At this point, much of the why and the how of magic coming back into the world remain a mystery; the focus is on reacting to the situation, not in actively fixing it.
Even with the book itself feeling slow, there was still moments I loved. Adria is a great character, a Mindkeeper (a more scholarly priest) who has to deal with the fact that the various prayers she’s memorized and recited while ministering to the sick suddenly have very real power. She’s the kind of character who realizes she has enormous power to do good, but doesn’t necessarily want the responsibility to come with it. There are plenty of great monster battles and a memorable duel across rooftops. And over the course of the book, Devin amasses a found family of human and otherworldly creatures that work together to deal with the darker elements that are on the rise.
(On that note, I want to flag this IS a book that deals with some pretty gruesome things, including descriptions of past sexual assault and graphic descriptions of violent deaths at the hands of a sociopathic being. Proceed at your own discretion.)
All in all, SOULKEEPER was a pleasant read for me, but not something that overly blew me away. This may be one of those “It’s not you its me” situations, as there were certainly a lot of elements in this book I liked, but it just didn’t come together in a way that had me racing out to buy the next book. If the above scenario sounds intriguing to you, and you’re ready to settle in for a slower-paced adventure, this might be the one for you!