- Soulkeeper (The Keepers Series #1).
- David Dalglish.
- 704 pages.
- Fantasy / Epic Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: It’s OK Book Review.
The magic has returned . . . and so have the monsters.
Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, traveling through remote villages as a priest and healer. But when a mysterious black water washes over the world, the veil is torn, flooding the land with ancient magic and forgotten races. And not all the creatures that have reawakened remember humanity fondly.
As the land grows increasingly dangerous and chaotic, Soulkeepers are turning up dead. Devin must set aside his words of peace and accept his new role: slayer of monsters and protector of the human race.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper. Soulkeepers are part of the Keeping Church who worship the Three Sisters (Alma, Lyra and Anwyn) and travel the land of the Cradle offering aid, healing, mediating legal issues, officiating marriage ceremonies, overseeing the reaping rituals (where the spirit of the deceased leaves the body during the reaping hour) and offering protection from bandits who prey on the hamlets, villages and towns that are located throughout the Cradle.
As a Soulkeeper Devin is called to the village of Dunwerth where a disease has spread through the population, killing many and sickening more. While in the village a strange black water cascades over the land deadening, decaying and rotting everything in its path. The remaining villagers leave Dunwerth and head to the town of Crynn hoping to escape the tides of the black water. Crynn has also succumbed to the black water and the villagers, the refugees who have lost everything must carry on and seek shelter from the corruption that is plaguing the world in the city of Londheim.
Devin, who followed in the footsteps of the Dunwerth villagers, stopping at Crynn, seeing the corruption and finding his brother-in-law, Tommy still alive also heads to Londheim hoping to find his sister, Adria still alive too. Devin and Adria find each other, a family reunion along with Tommy and then a moving mountain is spotted in the distance making for Londheim. The crawling mountain arrives at the city gates, spewing black water around the perimeter and laying siege to the populace of Londheim.
The black water that rolled over the leagues did more than damage the land and with its advent, magic and creatures not seen in centuries return to the world of the Cradle. According to the scripture of the Keeping Church magic and creatures are just fable, myth, stories told to entertain or scare children, they aren’t. They were lost to time and now the world is changing, reverting back to how it used to be, inhabited by both humans (the Three Sister’s creation) and creatures (dragon-sired) who used to co-exist. The creatures (zombies, spider-wolves, living plants, giant owls that hunt humans, stone gargoyles and shadow/void monsters and more) were real, the magic was real and both have been slumbering for an age only to be awoken by the black water that has washed over the land.
With the crawling mountain outside of Londheim. Janus, a creation of Viciss, is released from his long imprisonment and set a task. Janus hasn’t slumbered, he hasn’t been awoken by the black water, he was awake through the centuries as a punishment and harbours a deep-seated hatred against the keepers and the Keeping Church. Janus travels to a nearby forest to retrieve an artefact and then, upon his return, he can torment the streets of Londheim sending a message to the keepers, the Keeping Church and the Three Sisters through his artwork, grotesque and twisted sculptures made from the bodies of the Keepers. With Janus terrorising the streets of Londheim Devin and his companions must put a stop to the killings, uncover the truth and adjust to the deadly new world.
Janus is a horrifying creation that been dragged out of Dalglish’s mind, a nightmare of foul proportion come to life on the pages. His hatred for humanity and the art that he creates is black as pitch. While there was the ever-present threat of the sadistic Janus I did sometimes forget about the crawling mountain being outside the gates of Londheim. After issuing a threat the mountain remained silent and seemed to only be mentioned in passing, coming across as more of an afterthought than an adversary capable of mass destruction. The mountain does have an important role to play in the story, at the beginning it is the cause of the black water and it has a role in the ending too. The mountain just seemed to be ‘there‘ and the impending threat wasn’t. Or, at least, I didn’t feel the threat whilst reading. The threat of the monsters newly re-awoken and plaguing the streets of Londheim, yes. The massive mountain, no and it just felt like background after its initial arrival at the gates. A presence, lurking, waiting and biding its time. Which, it is, it was just lacking in ominous dread.
The writing in Soulkeeper is decent if a little wordy but Dalglish kept my attention over the course of his 700-page tome. He also knows how to write exciting fight scenes and the book is peppered with fights that are exhilarating to read.
The world and its history and lore are intriguing (with more to be revealed in the future books in the series) and I liked all of the characters that Dalglish has created from Devin through to his companions. Tommy, his goofy brother-in-law who finds that he has the ability to wield magic, Adria, his strong sister who finds that she has the ability to heal people, Jacaranda, a soulless (without spoilers detailing it her story arc is really interesting), Puffy, a firekin and Tesmarie, a faery. With Adria and Tommy, they are discovering the limits of their new abilities, the gifts bestowed upon them by the Three Sisters who watch over the Cradle, learning how to control their powers and finding out what they are capable of. Tommy, in particular, is the comic relief to the story and all of them in their own way are engaging and add to the story. For Puffy and Tesmarie it is easy to see where the influences for them come from and I had a real soft spot for Puffy, the little firekin, his attitude and his mannerisms. He’s a lil’ dude who exudes a lot of tude! However, I did feel that their charm and cuteness was a dramatic departure from the darkness of Janus and his hellish macabre artwork who would be at home in any grimdark book. I felt that they were polar opposites, light and dark. No-one wants characters who are all the same but it seemed like they were from two different books and the contrast between them was extremely jarring.
I have to admit that Soulkeeper wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. From the blurb, in particular, the part that read ‘as the land grows more dangerous‘ I thought that the story would take place out in the newly awoken wild world and that Devin would hunt the killer of the other Keeper’s across the Cradle. This doesn’t happen, after the arrival at Londheim Devin does venture out to a settlement near the Oakback woods (which is great seeing the altered forest and the living plants come to savage life) but the meat of the story and most of the book takes place on the streets of Londheim.
I really liked the idea of Soulkeeper and I thought that it had the potential to be a fantastic book. Sadly, I felt that the premise was somewhat let down by the execution. It is still a decent read but it failed to live up to my expectations. It felt overly long and compared to other fantasy works that I have read the characters, the setting and the story never jumped out from of pages and grabbed me. I would have liked more from the book and while the future of humanity is at stake, the fate of the characters lacked any real emotional impact for me.
It might seem like I’m hating on Soulkeeper, I’m not, I don’t regret reading it, I’m glad I did. I was just disappointed with it and I’m trying to explain my issues. On the whole, I enjoyed Soulkeeper, it is a good solid book and a promising start to a new fantasy series. I would be interested in reading the sequel, Ravencaller to see what fate awaits the characters and to see where Dalglish next takes the story.
Pre-order Soulkeeper (The Keepers Series #1) by David Dalglish released on March 21st, 2019.
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