Soulkeepers by Steve Dean
Dayreads, ebook, £2.18
Reviewed by Heidi Ranger
On the island of Huclan, the Brotherhood perform a magical rite on newborns, taking their free will and turning them into mindless subjects. Kymer’s mother hid her from birth to save her from an empty life. She spends every day in hiding, fearful of discovery. For Garen, the procedure failed, leaving him free to do as he pleases. But when Garen’s father is taken, Garen sets off for the resistance hidden deep in his village’s surrounding forest, determined to make a difference.
On the surface, Soulkeepers is an interesting premise. At birth, people’s souls are removed, making them little more than organic robots, doing as they’re told without question. On paper, the children are also engaging. One is weighed down by worry and loss, while the other is carefree, demonstrating the negative impact of the Brotherhood on the people around them. The Brotherhood should also be a formidable foe, where they are as dangerous to one another as to the islanders. Unfortunately, the execution doesn’t live up to the premise.
It starts well enough with a rite being performed. From there, we move to Kymer, who is hiding from the Brotherhood and then to Garen. This is all well and good, but then we jump forward a few years without anything to ground us in time and place. I had to reread to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. This happens in a couple of chapters as the children age, which is fine, but it is confusing without some dates to help us understand that passage of time.
Soulkeepers is billed on the Dayreads website as YA, and the age of the characters when the action actually starts certainly fits that, but it read more like MG. The children act first and think later if they reflect at all. Garen is so matter-of-fact about everything he never considers his plans won’t work. There is very little emotional depth which distanced me from the characters as well, and then Kymer became a weapons expert with little training, which I struggled with.
As a story for YA, Soulkeepers doesn’t work. A younger audience might enjoy it, and there is no bad language or inappropriate content for an older MG reader. However, it could do with another run through the editing process to tighten up some errors.