A Soul Reclaimed
Publication date: April 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars
Hell is divided into seven regions. The first region is designated for the purest of souls, the seventh is for the evilest. There was once a king of Hell, but the steward family has ruled for centuries.
Nora, the stepdaughter of the steward is undone when her mother and step-father take away her beloved tutor, Peter. When Nora confronts the steward and her mother, the discussion is heated and ends with the steward in inexplicable pain.
Shortly after, Nora finds herself in the Starry Wood. Peter told her of the perils within the forest, and it’s not long before the inhabitants of the wood find her.
A giant hunter named Aegis comes to Nora’s aid. He is drawn to Nora, compelled to protect her from the steward’s assassins, the giants, and the evil souls who escape the seventh region.
Together, they travel the seven layers of Hell to discover why the steward is so threatened by a teenage girl.
A Soul Reclaimed by Shayna Grissom is an interesting take on the seven circles of hell and everything that is inside them. It’s a fascinating attempt to humanize a place that humanity has made horrifying, and Grissom does a fantastic job of keeping the language and the technicalities of the story simple and easy to understand. The story is easy to read and engaging, which lead to me losing track of time while I read it.
I have some problem with the fact that the characters of the story aren’t really described physically. Reading is like my own personal version of TV, so I generally have a pretty good picture in my head when it comes to the characters. However, Grissom kind of avoids describing the characters more than necessary, leaving you with vague outlines and shadowy images instead of clearly being able to picture the characters or even the settings. This definitely forces the reader to focus on the action, but there’s so much emphasis on Nora’s appearance that it feels very odd to not really be able to see her in my mind.
There’s a LOT going on in this book. A LOT. There’s the over-arcing storyline involving the rebirth of kings and treachery of stewards. In addition to that, though, are all the weird subplots surrounding Nora and her abilities. It feels a bit like the narrator has ADHD because instead of following one string of the story for a while until we reach a good break or conclusion, the story jumps around to different areas of focus, leaving the reader reeling at the abrupt change in point of view or focus of the story. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally to maintain the mystery of the first Queen of Hell, or if it was accidental and just the way Grissom writes.
Grissom is extremely good at conveying Nora as a character on the cusp of womanhood. She’s a mix of innocent and giddy schoolgirl and world-weary cynic. It really helps to convey her upbringing of being treated as a burden to everybody, which in turn lead to her being extremely sheltered. I struggled with her feelings for Aegis, as they didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense, sometimes. It’s like Grissom felt there SHOULD be a sort of romantic interest there, so she forced it? It definitely didn’t feel natural. Many of her feelings (jealousy, insecurity, etc) can be traced back to her upbringing and emotional immaturity, but the added unrecognized romantic interest on the part of Nora was difficult to swallow. Their dynamic is weird, too. He’s a mentor, but he just gives in to her childish and petty and downright dangerous demands a lot of the time. He knows doinng what she wants could have dire consequences, but he just shrugs his shoulders and keeps going along.
Overall, the story is good and I enjoyed it. It’s definitely a new look at something that humans have speculated on for centuries. However, I do wish there was a bit more character development, as my impression of Nora is that as much as she’s been ignored, she’s a pretty spoiled and selfish girl. She has flashes of empathy, but mostly seems to do what she wants and to Hell (pun intended) with the rest of the people in her life. To see her grow away from that attitude would have been fantastic. This really could have been a fantastic series where she was allowed to grow and develop with an in-depth look at the various circles of Hell and how she grows into a strong woman, but that part feels rushed and crammed into the last 25%. There is just enough that there is a hint of more to come, but the story basically feels complete to me. I’ll keep an eye on it to see, though.
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Shayna Grissom was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, two children, and her beloved pets. Shayna draws inspiration for her writings from binge-watching too many shows with far too much wine. She is a lover of the macabre, the strange, natural sciences, and films that feature vivid colors and imagery. Her favorite film director is Guillermo Del Toro, and her favorite books growing up were Anne Rice novels.