REVIEW: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Baron
Updated: Feb 15
We follow our main character Arrah who was born into a family of witch doctors. However, Arrah hasn’t manifested her powers and as such she is seen as the black sheep among her family. She can see magic but cannot connect with it. Arrah’s family gathers and they hold a ritual. Arrah’s Grandmother, the Chieftain takes centre place and leads her family in this ritual but like any other time Arrah has been there, she can feel and see the magic but cannot bond with it herself.
Arrah goes to see her grandmother who tries to help her over and over again to figure out why she has no magic. They throw bones on the ground in a ritual to find out why, but something different happens this time, Arrah’s grandmother becomes angry and tells the green-eyed serpent to leave. The green-eyed serpent is a symbol of demon magic.
Arrah with her father, return home and they find out that children are going missing in the city. Arti, Arrah’s mother says that she can see this person but can only glimpse at them from a distance. Whilst Arrah is still trying to figure out what is wrong with her, another girl goes missing. The pile of children going missing gets higher and higher and Arrah plans to do something about it.
Arrah decides that in order to do something about these missing children, she must obtain magic. In order to do that, she goes to seek someone who will open up their magic to Arrah. They strike a deal and finds herself with magic finally. With her newfound magic, she follows somebody who she thinks is the child snatcher who is wearing a hood. It turns out that it’s Arti, her mother, and that she made a deal so she had to take the children. Arti then puts a spell on her, binding her soul to her mothers, which means that they cannot act against one another.
When she returns home to her father, she sees that her mother has got to him first and cannot betray her. Arrah knowing that her father is in danger from her mother, tries a charm that should work, it doesn’t but even then, Arrah should not have even been able to go against her mother’s wishes.
Arrah’s friend, Rudjek knows that something is wrong with her, and she desperately wants to tell him the truth but she cannot because of the binding spell. Arti takes Arrah to where the children are. The children are in a temple with an altar and the children are arranged in a straight line. One by one Arti takes their souls. Arrah is upset and angry at her mother but her mother doesn’t stop. Instead, she gives Arrah an explanation that the demon king answered her prayers and as such she gives the souls to him. When the demon king next appears, Arti asks him to give her a daughter. He does so. Arti says that she plans on setting the demon king free from his prison.
The temple is destroyed and Arrah decides that she must kill her mother and goes to seek help from the Orisha. The Orisha, Kore, admits that there is no way to kill her mother whilst she is protect by the demon magi. Kore helps Arrah get rid of her curse and asks her to find her grandmother. The grandmother already knows that she needs help and is already on her way. The unborn child of Arti and the Demon King begins to grow at alarming rates. Arti eventually gives birth to a girl named Efia. Arrah plans to kill her baby sister. Efia is still growing even outside the womb and tells Arrah that she can see into everybody else’s minds but not hers. Efia and Arrah fight and Arrah is able to escape.
Arrah is trying to find her friend Rudjek and whilst she is doing so, Efia goes on a killing rampage and kills Orishas instead of finding her sister. Rudjek and Arrah find each other and try to figure out a way to defeat her mother and her sister. Arrah goes out and gets trapped in a maze and when she returns to the tent that they both share, she sees that Rudjek is with her sister in bed. Arrah is angry! The Orisha tell the story of the demon king like a story around the campfire. The Demon king wasn’t always so nasty, he was indeed nice. He was found by a lake and was taught that he could consume souls to extend his life. Unfortunately for him, this ended up changing his sweet nature into something that was revolting.
Arrah eventually reaches Heka’s temple where the demon king is held. He tells her that she was indeed the orisha that rescued him by the lake. She is shocked beyond belief but then Arti, Efia and their team of demons arrive and she doesn’t have time to think about this revolution. Arti tries to help Arrah in the end but Efia kills her for betraying her. Efia is now beyond angry that her mother sided with Arrah and collapses the temple trapping them both in there. They fight and Arrah stabs Efia with the demon king’s blade. After this happens, Arrah remembers that she is indeed the unnamed Orisha from long ago. Arrah’s only mistake was loving Dayo (the demon king) too much and wanting him to survive and so found a way of passing souls on to others. He consumed more and more and Fram, Arrah’s sibling killed her for creating the monster that she did. Enraged, Dayo swore revenge on the Orisha’s for killing his beloved.
The Demon Blade is stolen in the midst of the fighting and so Arrah must now stop the demon king from his plan and now find the dagger that is the only thing that can kill him. Dayo, on the other hand decides that now he is free, he will find Fram and tell him to break the spell on Arrah’s memories. The book finally ends with a twisted maniacal plot and that is that Arrah/Dimma, his wife, does not remember their own son.
Honestly this book was full of adventure and had me gripped to its pages. Rena Barron has created a world that has dark magic and mythology that makes me want to have a whole other book to read about the world itself. It’s that incredible. I can’t wait for the second book in this series. I luckily was given an arc of this wonderful book but now I’m so upset that I have to wait such a long time for the next book because I truly want to know how Arrah and the gang come against her love, the demon king when confronted with the fact that they have all of this history together. Will she still want to kill him or join him against the Orisha’s that did indeed betray her. Though I did not explain it here in this review, I will say Arti’s back story does explain why she is the way she is but however, this does not excuse her actions and I’m glad that in the end, she realised she was on the wrong side. Rena Barron created such a rich world of mythology, magic and wonder but also of family and friends and what it is like to be in a community of people like that who truly love you despite not being like them. This book is obviously West African inspired and because this is not something I am familiar with, I found that I actually enjoyed not knowing as much and finding my way along with the characters.
This book was everything I hoped it to be and if not more. Can’t wait for the sequel.
5 out of 5 stars.