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Review: ‘A Soul for Trouble’, Book 1 of The Soulbearer Trilogy, by Crista McHugh

March 26, 2013

A Soul for Trouble coverArden Lesstymine’s day began as any other: she woke up, served the inn’s guests, and avoided getting pinched by the customers. But a strange customer walked in and, since none of the inn’s other girls would serve him, Arden found herself bringing him food.  He seemed like a harmless old man who talked to himself–until he grabbed her hand and looked up at her with strange, insane eyes.

And then he died.

That was when Arden, otherwise known as Trouble, got saddled with the soul of the god of Chaos, Loku.  He had chosen her to be his new Soulbearer when the crazy old man was shot in the inn, and he jumped into her.  Now Arden had to figure out how to cope with a second soul, a second fully-formed personality, sharing her mind and body.  And this new position of Soulbearer came with something else: a Protector, Dev.  Snappish, cynical, and sometimes rude, Dev didn’t seem like a very nice person, hardly the sort of person who would be protecting anyone.  But his fighting skills are top-knotch, and Arden finds herself very happy for Dev’s company and protection as they run from the person who caused the ruckus in the inn and killed the old man.  Magic is forbidden inside Ranello’s borders, and Arden was now a very magical person–she can’t stay in Ranello, and Dev can’t use his magic to protect her as much as he would like.

On their way to the harbor and safe passage out of the country, Trouble finds herself learning more about Loku and Dev, and what it means to be a Soulbearer.  She also finds herself attracted to Dev in a powerful way she couldn’t deny, though Dev shows little interest in her beyond getting her out of Ranello and across the sea.  A necromancer is on their tail, a very powerful and evil man who wants to track down Arden and take Loku’s soul for his own foul purposes.  Arden and Dev struggle to stay ahead of the necromancer, and stumble across a camp of soldiers who are more than what they seem.  Delayed in Ranello by the soldiers, who debate whether they should kill Arden for being a witch and Dev for practicing magic, Arden learns new and fascinating things about herself and Loku–she finds out what she can do now as a witch, and what it means to be the Soulbearer, including the fact that Loku had a habit of driving his previous Soulbearers insane.

Can Arden and Dev avoid the necromancer?  And can Arden stop Loku from driving her insane?

My Thoughts: I loved it!  I ended up reading it in a day, I couldn’t put it down.  The concept is very interesting, and the book is filled with humor, intrigue, danger, and a dash of romance and tension thrown in for fun.

Arden, or Trouble, is feisty and stubborn, which usually works to her advantage.  But being the next Soulbearer for a god’s soul–and a very troublesome god at that–tests all of the patience and strength she possesses.  The god himself, Loku, becomes a comedy figure with his constant commentary to Arden about the events in her life and even commenting on her thoughts and speaking to her in her mind.  As the Soulbearer for Loku and a budding mage herself, she can channel all of Loku’s mighty power–if she wants to risk her sanity in the process.  But Loku seems to like this new Soulbearer . . . and not just because his new home is a woman’s body, and he’s never been hosted in a woman before . . .  On top of dealing with Loku and his annoying comments, Arden has to put up with her Protector, Dev, an impatient, snarky knight sworn to protect the Soulbearer of Loku in penance for a crime.  While Dev is annoying and frustrating, Arden comes to like him and his handsome face.  I like Trouble and find her nickname refreshing and endearing.

Dev is fascinating because he clearly is attracted to Arden–this is not a secret from the reader, so I’m not spoiling anything by saying so–and refuses to act on that attraction.  Loku enjoys goading the Protector.  Dev has been the Soulbearer’s Protector for many years, and Loku has taken perverse delight in tormenting and goading Dev.  Even with his cynical and snarky ways, Dev is likable, and while not endearing, he is fascinating and interesting as the story moves forward.

Eventually, Dev and Arden come across Kell, who is far more than what he seems.  Unsure if he’s a friend or foe, Arden and Dev have a hard time trusting Kell.  Witches are supposed to be killed on sight in Ranello, Arden and Kell’s country, and Kell should kill Arden for witnessing her use of magic–yet he delays the deed out of a sense of honor.  I never really like Kell.  He’s arrogant and stubborn, and tries too often to get Arden into his bed simply because of his rank.  I don’t root for him the way I root for Dev and Arden, who are both much more likable.  Kell isn’t the main villain, but for most of the book he is an unknown, and until closer to the end, we aren’t sure where he will fall in regards to being an enemy or ally of Arden.

The rivalry between Dev and Kell could have turned sour, but it never felt that way to me. Their devotion and longing for Trouble also could have become tiresome and repetitious, but I think it was handled well. The desires became a part of the overall story once Trouble got involved.

On top of all those interesting character interactions, there is also the matter of a dangerous necromancer on the loose . . . a necromancer who wants to get his hands on Trouble and Loku, and use Loku’s power to do some pretty nasty things.  Arden and Dev find themselves on the run with this necromancer on their tail as they attempt to reach the harbor and take a ship to Dev’s country, where they can stay in relative safety while Trouble comes into her own as the Soulbearer.  But the necromancer causes more trouble than anyone anticipated for Trouble’s country, and she finds herself reluctant to leave . . .

I thought the author used “more importantly” a little bit too often at the beginning, but it died down by the second half, so it’s not too bad.  I thought the pacing was good, and the plot interesting and well done.  I have very few complaints about this book, aside from some of the word choices.

I can’t wait to read the second installment!  I’ll probably even buy this one and the next in paperback rather than just stick with the Kindle editions.

4 stars

Buy on Amazon * Author Website * GoodReads

Book info: published 2012, 343 pages, ASIN B007QYEPYK

Copy is the Kindle edition.

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