Review of Kingdom of Souls

Kingdom of Souls
by Rena Barron
High School    HarperTeen    490 pp.
9/19    978-0-06-287095-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-287097-1    $8.99

Arrah was born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, though magic has always evaded her. But when children are abducted and omens of death appear in the market streets, Arrah doesn’t need magic to know that evil is looming. Fortified by her desire to save the children and live up to her exacting mother’s standards, Arrah trades years of her life in order to possess magic that will liberate the kingdom from the threat. When the trade is complete, she discovers that secrets lie around every corner, people are not as they seem, and gods and demons exist alongside humanity. Barron includes high-stakes reveals, breathtaking world-building, complicated female characters (who are both heroes and villains), and an ill-fated romance in her intricate fantasy novel. Narrated by Arrah, the story is fast paced, with vignettes written from other characters’ points of view breaking up the tension and adding new details to the plot. Fans of Black fantasy stories based in African traditions (e.g., Akata Witch, rev. 5/11; Children of Blood and Bone, rev. 5/18) should welcome this volume; additionally, its commitment to a story line filled with violence and harbingers of death cause the tale to teeter between fantasy and horror in innovative ways that differentiate it from others that came before.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

S. R. Toliver
S. R. Toliver is a PhD candidate in language and literacy education at the University of Georgia and a 2019 NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellow. She studies YA speculative fiction, Afrofuturism, and Black girl literacies. Her academic work can be found on her website DiverseFutures.net. Follow her on Twitter @SR_Toliver

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