While Rena Barron’s debut novel, Kingdom of Souls, failed to blow me away, its sequel Reaper of Souls did just that. Gone are the repetitiveness of the writing as well as the one-dimensionality of the characters I found most distracting. In their place is an exciting world that brings something new to every page wherein the characters are deliciously grey in their morality.
More importantly, Reaper of Souls helps fill in many of the missing puzzle pieces that made the first story more than a little confusing. Because the story involves an age-old clash between demons and gods, the analogy of the story as a gameboard is apt, and being able to see entire swaths of the gameboard not only helps in reader comprehension but also in entertainment as well. Plus, by taking the time to explain the conflict’s origins, Ms. Barron highlights the similarities between each party’s motives and behaviors. In so doing, she blurs the lines between the good guys and the bad ones, forcing you to reevaluate what you know about each character. It makes for compelling storytelling.
Plus, I cannot stress how refreshing it is to read about characters who are not white and blonde-haired. I love that there is not one character with white skin within the entire text. I find the stories about the tribes fascinating and relish the chance to learn about a culture of color, no matter how rooted in fantasy it is. I read to learn, and Ms. Barron’s fantasy allows me to learn about life in someone else’s skin, whose culture is not Euro-centric and therefore all too familiar.
With Reaper of Souls, Ms. Barron shows her writing chops. Not only does she flesh out her world and her characters, but she complicates the situation by making her two sides more alike than different. At this point, I have no idea how Arrah’s story is going to end, but I am more than a little excited to find out.