Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls Series #1)

Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls Series #1)

by Rena Barron


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Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

The lush world building of Children of Blood and Bone meets the sweeping scale of Strange the Dreamer in this captivating epic YA fantasy debut.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

Inspired by tales of folk magic in her own community, Rena Barron spins a darkly magical tale perfect for fans of Three Dark Crowns or Shadow and Bone, about a girl caught between gods, monsters, and her own mother’s schemes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062870957
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/03/2019
Series: Kingdom of Souls Series , #1
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 40,523
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama, where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena has an affinity for good cheese, wine, and nature. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French. Find her online @renathedreamer or at

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Kingdom of Souls 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
David Slayton 11 days ago
What would you do to save the people you love? What if they aren't who you thought they were? Rena Barron asks these question of her main character, Arrah and pushes her into answering it. She weaves the tension through KINGDOM OF SOULS, shading this lush, beautiful world with a creeping evil that only Arrah can see coming. Barron breathes so much life into KINGDOM'S settings, with so many little nuances and special details. I had to go back and re-read whole sections just to savor her descriptions. The magic system is original while feeling familiar enough to not be confusing, but I think it's the characters and their complexity that really drew me into Kingdom of Souls. Arrah is a great foil to her enemies and their advancing agenda. She risks everything to save her people and the stakes stay high. You're never certain if she can overcome the rising tide. I've been looking forward to KINGDOM OF SOULS since it was announced, and it did not disappoint.
Cortingbooks 12 days ago
4.25 Stars “For her story begins at the end Full of pain and sweet revenge. For she shall not rest in this life, For she must suffer for her sins.” Arrah doesn’t have magic like her parents and so you know she may be tempted to do something she shouldn’t just to get a little taste of what it’s like to have that kind of power. She’s just trying to help out a friend. What could possibly go wrong? Political intrigue. Check. Revenge. Check. Epic battle scenes. Check. Scheming unreliable gods. Check. Unexpected twists and turns. Check. This book has it all. It was a joy reading about this little group of friends and their fierce dedication to each other. I may have chuckled a time or two at their banter. Kingdom of Souls is bold, imaginative, shocking and full of death and destruction. The world building is phenomenal and cohesive. I see I’m going to have to prepare myself for the next book in this series. Obviously no one is safe.
onemused 12 days ago
KINGDOM OF SOULS is a dark epic fantasy that follows Arrah, a girl whose mother is the Ka-Priestess and whose father loves her dearly. Arrah is desperate for the magic so many others have. Both her parents have so much, and yet, Arrah cannot perform even the smallest of charms with magic. In her sixteenth year, she knows that if her magic does not show now, it never will. After a failed attempt to reach out to the gods (orishas) that could bestow magic, she is given a darker prophecy from her grandmother about a green-eyed serpent. When she returns to the city, her mother is scheming. Never sure of where she stands with her mother, Arrah is wary but still shocked when her mother announces that children have been disappearing. When a child who feels like a brother to Arrah goes missing, Arrah is willing to take a step that she never thought she could out of desperation to find him- she will sell her years (potentially life) for magic that does not come naturally. What she finds is shocking and leads to twists and turns in the plot that transform the book into something else entirely. Note that I will not give too many details to avoid spoilers- this book has many twists, turns and surprises. What I loved: This is a slow-building fantasy that takes a lot of time and care in world and character building. As such, the characters feel closer and the world more real, in the vein of THE LORD OF THE RINGS series. This is a highly compelling and emotionally challenging book- I list that as a strength, because I love books that can make you feel so many things. The story evolves throughout, making it feel like reading multiple stories in one book, and mirroring the changes that Arrah undergoes throughout them. The portrayal of the orishas (gods) was also intriguing. We see their perspectives here and there in sections during the book that add quite a bit to it. They are compelling in their own right and reveal much to the reader. Morality is a big theme here, and the definition is not so clear. One thing I really loved is that there is not a clear evil/bad guy here- even the reader is left questioning who is in the right or who is good or evil. This complexity is achieved over many pages and is really powerful. What left me wanting more: I am going to venture into a spoiler here, so skip this if you do not want to know (I'll try to be vague). In two scenes, characters have sexual encounters under false pretenses in a way that seems like sexual assault but is not addressed (and in one case, the victim is vilified for it). In one, their body is possessed/under magical control and in another, the victim was made to believe the person they were sleeping with was someone they loved- only to later find out that it was not the person they thought it was. Upon this realization, this person is shamed as if they should have known better, by pretty much all the other characters. It seemed unnecessary to the plot and could have been handled better. I would also give warnings for multiple character death, child death, torture, and emotional/physical abuse. Final verdict: Dark and slow-building, this is a unique YA fantasy that grapples with important questions around family, destiny, morality, and sacrifice. Highly recommend for fans of epic fantasy that transcend stories and feature diverse/#ownvoices characters. This book is sure to leave you reeling in the best way and excited for the next in the series (a bit of a cliffhanger at the end).
LeonardR 7 days ago
So, the first thing that grabs my attention is the thickness of the book. You have 470 pages. I’m not one to not finish what I started so I do become concerned if I’m not feeling the vibes while mid way through a book and need to painfully read through the end. Thankfully, this is not the case. This was a constant page turner to see what is happening next. The author brought me to a wonderful world of magic and spirits and deities with love and war and humor and tragedy and surprises nearly every other turn. There’s no sense repeating the basic storyline because it has probably been written by other reviewers over and over. The main thing to get is that the reader will constantly be left surprised by the many twists and turns. And that ending……..Wow! It had me simply hold on to the book and reflect my thoughts for a while before I put it down. If there is any critique, I wish there was more references to animals (but that’s just me)
BarbTRC 11 days ago
Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron is her debut novel and the 1st book in her YA fantasy Kingdom of Souls series. We meet our heroine, Arrah from the start, who comes from a family of powerful witchdoctors in Central Africa. Arrah has prayed all her young life for some kind magic ability, which all the rest of her family has; once again, as she is tested with other children, she has no magic. Soon Arrah learns that many of the young children in her city have disappeared, and to her dismay she suspects her mother, the Priestess, of having something to do with it. Arrah is desperate to find out the truth, and begins to learn about the demons and other species at war with each other; and the plan to help the Demon King, who has been imprisoned for many years, escape and wreak havoc on the world again. Arrah’s mother arranges to have a demon impregnate her, a sister will be born, who ages quickly to be the same age as Arrah. This is fantasy The sister, Efia becomes ultra powerful, and in time very evil, destroying everything she touches. Arrah, who is a very good heroine, will soon realize that she is destined to save everyone, and is willing to sacrifice her life to do so. Arrah and her friends, especially Rudjek, her love interest and the son of the leader, will eventually help her fight the evil, but will they survive? I did have mixed feelings about all the details that did drag the book a bit, but that happens a lot in first books of fantasy series. I am hoping that Barron continues the flow with less details in the future books. To say too much more about the story would be spoilers, and the last half of the books picks up dramatically, and I do not want to ruin it for you. Arrah turned into a very strong and tenacious heroine, and I really liked Rudjek and their friends. It was nice to see how much Arrah loved her father, and watched him come under the power of her mother, but it is Efia who will need to be stopped or the world as they know it will end. Kingdom of Souls was a tense, at times dark story, with much death and destruction. There were many battles, as well as POV’s from the gods. Rena Barron wrote a very imaginative and dark story (less details please), especially being her debut novel. I look forward to seeing where Barron will take us in the next book.
Rosemary-Standeven 11 days ago
This is a refreshingly novel fantasy story with a strong African influence. There is nary a dwarf or elf to be seen, but plenty of demons and witch doctors to add to the monarchy, high priests (and priestesses) and a pantheon of deities – the Orishas. Despite much that at first seems unfamiliar, there are still the universal themes of good and evil, love, family and belonging. The heroine, Arrah, dreams of being a witch doctor, like both her parents. She can see magic all around her, but is unable to manipulate it. Family is important to Arrah, and her feelings for her family (and theirs for Arrah) are tightly bound with her (and their) feelings about magic. To have no magic in a world and family full of magic, makes Arrah feel that she does not belong. While her father makes it clear that he will love her, whether she gains a talent for magic or not, her mother (Arti, High Priestess at the Almighty Temple) makes it even more clear, that Arrah is a failure, and has been a disappointment to her for most of Arrah’s short life. “They don’t know what it’s like to feel you don’t belong, to feel you’re not worthy. To not measure up to a mother who all the Kingdom admires”. Arrah so desperately wants her mother’s approval, that she puts her life at risk to try to get control of her magic. It soon becomes apparent, that poor mothering is not Arti’s only crime, but can Arrah – with no magic of her own – stop Arti and her demonic plans? There is a Romeo and Juliet style romance between Arrah and Rudjek (son of Arti’s greatest enemy), with Rudjek determined to keep Arrah safe, even when he does not understand all that is afflicting her. Arrah has a lot of maturing to do. She comes to realise that magic can be a curse as well as a blessing: “Now I understand why the holy scripts say that the orishas wanted to keep magic out of the hands of mortal kind. Magic isn’t good or bad. It’s people who make it dangerous” and that she is a person of great value, even without her mother’s style of magic: “Grandmother once told me that our greatest power lies not in our magic, but in our hearts. I thought she was trying to placate me, but no, she understood the importance of knowing one’s strength”. I found the book initially quite slow going, but by about quarter of the way through, I was hooked, and really enjoyed the ride as the pace and complexity greatly increased. The world building is excellent and the story very well written. However, I cannot give it five stars, as the ending did not work for me. I am not quite sure what I wanted – or why – but it was not the way the book closed. I would still recommend the book as a fascinating, unique and enjoyable fantasy novel. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
SchizanthusNerd 12 days ago
I don’t really know where to begin with this review. There was so much about ‘Kingdom of Souls’ that I loved. I adored the world building, the rich mythology and learning how magic works in Arrah’s world, yet at the same time I was introduced to so many characters, tribes and gods that I found it difficult to keep track of them. Enter my cheat guide. I had no idea who or what was going to be important later on and I was so overwhelmed in the beginning (up to about 20%) that I found myself frantically making notes about practically everyone. These notes are included in my Goodreads review. I think it was because I was so bogged down in my note taking that I managed to entirely bypass the whole ‘connecting with any of the characters’ experience. One character that I thought I would form a connection with early on died soon thereafter and the villain I was hoping to cheer on didn’t make much of an impact on me. Had I found the guide on the book’s website before I read this book instead of after, my reading experience may have been vastly different. I learned things from this guide that I missed entirely when I read the book. However, considering a couple of the characters illustrated on the cast page don’t exist in the first book, perhaps some of the guide also relates to later books in the series. Impacts of trauma play out in various ways with multiple characters, which I found very interesting. Although it’s not mentioned by name it’s almost certain a few characters could be diagnosed with PTSD. Some of Arrah’s thought patterns were quite repetitive. Hearing about how much of a disappointment she was to her mother and how she had longed to have magic her entire life provided me with sufficient underdog fuel to want her to succeed initially, but the amount of times she lamented both began to annoy me as the story progressed. Although I witnessed plenty of action, with fight scenes, destruction and all round mayhem, it also felt like I spent a good portion of this book waiting around with Arrah for the next sequence of events to begin to unfold. The ending was quite abrupt and left a ton of unanswered questions, which will hopefully be addressed in the next two books. If I read this book a second time I would spend less time focusing on the minutiae and try instead to form meaningful connections with the main characters. It felt like Arrah’s world was real and this is why I’ve given this book 4 stars instead of 3. Had I been emotionally invested in Arrah’s journey this could have been a 5 star book for me. Content warnings are included in my Goodreads review. Thank you so much to NetGalley and HarperVoyager, an imprint of HarperCollins UK, for granting my wish to read this book.