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Review: ‘A Soul for Chaos’, Book 2 of The Soulbearer Trilogy, by Crista McHugh

April 30, 2013

A Soul for Chaos coverIn Ranello, Arden Lesstymine, also known as Trouble, struggles to cope with all the changes that have happened in her life. Being saddled with the soul of the chaos god, Loku, and becoming his new Soulbearer isn’t exactly easy, after all. Nor is being followed by the Soulbearer’s Protector, a handsome elf named Devarius Tel’Brien, or Dev. Arden spends the winter in the palace of Ranello as Dev arranges passage for them to his home country of Gravaria, the only place where Trouble can be safe and learn how to control the soul of the deity inside her. With any luck, the mages in Gravaria can teach her the skills she needs to keep her from losing her sanity.

But as she waits to leave Ranello, she also must contend with her relationship with Kel, the Third Prince of Ranello, and her feelings for Dev. Loku can’t help but add his unique commentary to her situation, and encourages her to take up with either man, or both. Arden questions her feelings and fights against her past as she examines her relationships. A sudden surprise attack aimed at her in the very heart of the capital puts everyone on edge as Dev insists even more that Trouble must travel to Gravaria as soon as possible.

Dev finally arranges passage on a ship to Gravaria, and he and Trouble make their way across the sea. A surprise waits for them at the ship, one that Dev couldn’t anticipate and which sets the Protector off balance. Another attack aimed for Trouble makes it clear to Dev that someone is after Trouble, and is dangerously close in succeeding. It’s more important than ever that Dev get Trouble to the Conclave in Gravaria.

Yet in Gravaria, all is not what it seems. The Empress could be Trouble’s twin in looks, and the question of who Trouble’s real father is becomes an issue for Dev and the Empress. An attack proves that the Mages’ Conclave is less safe than Dev had hoped–but the person behind the attack is a mystery. Dev faces his own struggles in Gravaria as he tries to solve the mystery of Trouble’s parentage and come to terms with his own feelings toward the woman he is supposed to protect with his life.

My Thoughts: Just like the first installment in the series, I could barely put this book down! I very much enjoyed reading this second installment in the Soulbearer series, and given the cliffhanger ending, I am eager to read the third book and find out what happens next.

The characters are memorable, and I feel very attached to Dev and Arden in particular. Kell plays a relatively small role compared to Dev in this book, which isn’t much of a change from the first book. However, Kell becomes more important to Arden and her character growth as the book progresses. The reader gets a better idea of Kell’s personality as McHugh fleshes him out to become more than just the handsome prince keeping Arden captive. We get more of an idea of what kind of person he is because of his relationship with Arden. While I don’t particularly like or care for Kell, I also don’t particularly dislike him either. I am more indifferent to him and his struggles than I am to Dev, who I like much more than Kell.

Dev is the character I find most fascinating because I feel that he faces some of the more intriguing struggles.  Sure, Arden has the soul of a chaos god sharing her body, but Dev faces much more “normal” problems. Those problems and how he responds are actually what keep me turning the pages most. I felt throughout the book that I had a sense of how things would likely turn out for Arden regarding Loku, but Dev’s problems were always much more up in the air and more of a mystery. I adore Dev. There’s just something about him that makes me think I would be friends with him in real life. He would be one of those maddening friends that you have a love-hate relationship with. I think his character is done really well, and his complexity is built upon with the addition of some Gravarian characters, one of whom turns out to be related to Dev.

Arden is a wonderful main character. Her personality develops even more in this book, even though her personality changes are somewhat more subtle compared to Dev and Kell’s more obvious personalities. I feel like she doesn’t change in this book as much as Dev and Kell do, but she still grows beyond the character she was in the first book.

The villain in this book was very creative and interesting. The mystery factor surrounding the villain’s identity didn’t hurt, either. this villain was dastardly enough that I was hooked on the mystery of trying to discover who it was, but I’m a little disappointed that we never find out the second villain’s identity. This makes more sense once you read and figure out who the primary villain is, but Primary Villain has a servant doing the leg work, and I don’t recall we ever find out who the servant is. Maybe this will be resolved in Book 3? Even if the character for the servant is someone completely inconsequential, I would still like to know who it was for curiosity’s sake.

The pace of the story was excellent, and the plot was very well done. I was hanging on every word, even those scenes that focused on my lease favorite character (Kell) and which may not have included Arden or Dev.

There are some flaws. There are a lot of typos, more than I expected and, I believe, more than there were in the first book. And somehow the italics formatting must have been lost in the conversion to Kindle format. A few times I found it hard to distinguish between when someone spoke aloud and when there was internal dialogue.

I give A Soul for Chaos 5 stars for character, plot, pacing, and re-readability. It did have flaws in the formatting and proofreading, as I mentioned above, but I didn’t feel these flaws were serious enough to hinder my ability to read and enjoy the story.

5 stars

Buy on Amazon * Author’s Website * GoodReads

Book info: published 2012, 344 pages, ASIN: B00A9ADZ9O

Copy is the e-book copy.

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