This entire series is basically an automatic five star win for me. Each and every single time.
For Kellen, the only way to survive is to hide. His curse is growing stronger, bringing dark and violent visions, and the bounty hunters dogging his heels get closer every day.
Desperate, he searches for a mysterious order of monks rumored to have a cure. But salvation comes with a high price.
(Disclaimer: I received this free book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I cried during this book. Are you even really surprised at this point? This series manages to wring all the tears, joy, and heartbreak out of me. The characters became parts of your heart. Each of them representing a different shard. Kellen’s fierce loyalty to his friends, the way Ferius shaped Kellen, and Reichis and his fire. There’s more than one thing to love about each of them, as Kellen continues on his quest to understand and cure his shadow black.
And the characters are only really deepened in Soulbinder. In books one through three, Kellen always had Ferius and there seemed to always be a get out of jail free card. But now Kellen’s on his own again – except with Reichis is anyone really ever alone. And what makes this series so tender, so emotional, so endearing, is that Kellen would do whatever it took to protect his friends, leaving them, lying to them, and the feeling is mutual.
At the beginning of Soulbinder we begin in a very emotional place, with Kellen and Reichis on their last legs. There’s only so many times you can expect to charm your way out of a fight, it seems, until Kellen is whisked away to this mysterious Abbey where nothing is what he expects. In Soulbinder we are really asked about the type of person Kellen is. Without Ferius imparting the little Argosi tidbits, who is Kellen and what does he stand for? Because that was one of the sticking points of Charmcaster – the fact that the Argosi don’t take a side.
Kellen and Themes
Is he a shadowblack? Is he Jan-Tep or a failed mage? Given the chance to remake himself, what will he make of himself? Every one is invested in Us versus Them mentalities, even the Shadowblack. And so Kellen needs to figure out if he has finally found home, a family that won’t turn on him, somewhere to belong. Throughout the book Kellen grapples with this concept. Growing up believing the shadowblack was a curse, can Kellen shake his precious ideas and prejudices?
What binds a people together? Is it their shared history, their shared belief in the future, their shared experiences? I adore how de Castell sneaks all these themes into the story – identity, family, and leadership. Because another theme in this book is what makes a good leader. There’s his cut throat father, there’s Shalla’s undeniable power, the Abbot’s fierce devotion, and Kellen. Even though he never sets out to be a leader, people tend to flock towards him, and how does he deal with this power?
What is the price of protection, of feeling safe? Will you do exactly what was done to you? To kill, to sacrifice?
And, at the end of the day, do we have to strength to accept who we are, even when it’s the hardest to name and scares you to death?
Soulbinder will make you cry. It will make you think. It will dash your heart to pieces, right after patching you up again. But you know, as well as I, that if you love this series, you’ll read on till the end. There’s something un-explainable about the bond you form with Kellen, with this fierce squirrelcat, and with those around him. And he’s not nearly done yet.