Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book Review: Soulbound by Heather Brewer

Soulbound by Heather Brewer
#1 in the Legacy of Tril series
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Publisher: Dial 
Pages: 304
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

What's worse than being blackmailed to attend a hidden school where you're treated like a second-class citizen? How about nearly getting eaten by a monster when you arrive? Or learning that your soulmate was killed in a centuries-old secret war? And then there's the evil king who's determined to rule the world unless you can stop him...

Meet Kaya, a young woman with the power to heal and the determination to fight. But struggle as she will, she remains tied to three very different men: a hero who has forsaken glory, a tyrannical ruler who wants to use Kaya, and a warrior who's stolen her heart. Kaya learns the hard way that some ties can't be broken...and blood is the strongest bond of all.


Buffy, Kaya is NOT

I started out liking Kaya a lot. She's a Healer, but she's spent her whole life living apart from the Barron/Healer world (more on that later), so she's pretty much a normal girl. She's not a super woman and she's not filled with angst (her parents are both alive and love her). She approached her new school with caution and resignation born from actual intelligent thought. I thought we were going to get along swimmingly.

Right up until Kaya took a turn for the unbelievable and super annoying. Now I think I kinda hate her. Or, at least, I really don't like her.

Look, I admire her desire to buck the rules and learn how to fight. Seriously, Healers are expected to hang out on battlefields, so the rules that healers can't learn how to fight are completely messed up and make about a much sense as a screen door on a submarine. The fact that the Powers That Be didn't give squat for an explanation made the whole situation even more infuriating. So I totally sympathize.

I just wish Kaya could have focused her angry rants on the stupidity of the rule and not the sexist/unfair aspect she decided to harp on instead. Especially considering it's not sexist at all. There are male AND female healers and none of them are allowed to learn how to fight. There are also male AND female Barrons and both of them routinely kick butt. The fact that Kaya had a legitimate reason for learning how to fight and mostly ignored those arguments made me especially eye-twitchy every time she started in with her irrational railing against the unfairness of The Man.

Know what also didn't make sense? Her transformation from normal girl weakling to Buffy-level skills after about a week's worth of training. Erm, nope, not buying that. Tell me she's The Chosen One, tell me she drank a magical elixir. Tell me SOMETHING, but don't tell me she just practiced real hard for a few days and that transformed her into the second best fighter in the land 'cause I'm not buying that.

Insta-love is in the air!

But it totally makes sense because they're bound, which means there's some magical bond between them that makes them instant besties. Plus, he's a total hottie, so it's cool, right?

Normally, ok, I can sometimes make an exception when there's some kind of paranormal explanation for their insta-bond, and there IS an explanation like that here, but...their relationship was just so darn boring. I was also feeling zero chemistry from the pair. The guy was like her older brother (a very nice brother, but a brother nonetheless).

I have no idea why they care for each other and when they weren't making random googly eyes  they were fighting. And not the sexy tension-filled kind of fighting either. This was more like the silent treatment and talking to other people to make each other jealous kind of fighting. BOR-RING, especially considering I couldn't care less if they aren't together.

Then there's the other guy. Oh, yes, this is a Love Triangle book, complete with capital letters because it pretty much monopolizes the plot. Kaya knows she's bound to the first guy, but she can't help but stare at the sexy abs of the second guy. Even though it's soooo wrong and really, she totally doesn't like him but, oooh his well-muscled back is so hot.

Now, granted, I tend to favor the bad boy, and Kaya's second love interest is the typical bad boy as the outcast badass fighter. He has a mysterious past and he has a hate-turned-love thing going on with Kaya. Plus, he treats her as more of an equal whereas her bound guy is all about following strict protocol of Barron/Healer interactions (and as already discussed, they're pretty whacked). I definitely swooned a little in between my eye-rolling. Still, there was something about him (maybe his awkward dialog?) that kept me from a full on swoon.

Maybe in the next book everyone can die and Maddox can be the heroine

Maddox should be the heroine. Or she should be a guy and become the romantic lead. Because Maddox is MADE OF WIN. She's Kaya's guard/guide and eventual best friend. Maddox has the cocky attitude of a swaggering rule-breaker. She has an acid tongue, a painful past, and she does everything with a lazy grin. If we had a sleepover party, we'd end up spending the night in jail after engaging in a spate of ill-advised but totally awesome hijinks.

How can you be so good and so bad all at once??

The world building is AWESOME. The concepts of Healers, Barrons, bound, soulbound alone is worth stars. Then add on top of that the generation-spanning war (with lots of horrific battles in the not-too-distant past) and an evil adversary with a hoard of demon dogs and this is a recipe for success. I also loved all the little hints that things are not what they seem.

Those demon dog things are called Graplars and they are everything I want out of a monster. Creepy, incredibly dangerous, hard to kill, and vividly described. Kaya goes up against them multiple times and every scene was pulse-pounding fun. There was also a fun mystery to solve surrounding how the Graplars were getting into the school, though unfortunately Kaya was all talk and no sleuth. I wish there were more Graplar scenes.

As much as I loved these concepts and as much as I'm really, really looking forward to learning more about them in the sequels, I also have a lot of complaints. Most importantly, where the heck am I?? Some features made me think this was a fantasy world with quaint medieval-like villages and no modern technology. But then why was I getting such strong modern vibes? Is this book a paranormal set in the modern world, or is it a fantasy set in a medieval-like world? Pick ONE, please.

Also, much as I really do appreciate it when fantasy authors use made up curse words (seriously, I really DO appreciate that! Nothing pulls me out of a fantasy world faster than a modern slang), Heather Brewer made her characters curse waaay too much. I don't say this because I'm a tightwad. I say this because if every other word wasn't "fak" it was "dek" and that just got tiresome after the fifty millionth time. It was like the fake-cursing equivalent to Edward's bronze hair.


The climax gave me a double eye-roll sprain it was so beyond ridiculous. The villain's dialog and motivations made me cringe and laugh. I was uncomfortable reading it and award the climax NO stars (and not even an E for Effort).

Heads up, it's also a total cliffhanger (and it's probably the most obvious cliffhanger in the world). 

Bottom line

Am I complaining a lot? Yup. Am I eagerly awaiting the next book? You bet! Why? I have no idea. I guess because, even with all of my complaints, I still had fun reading Soulbound. I want to find out more about the dynamics of this world and the truth behind the war. I want to see more Graplar fights. I'm not going to go out and buy the sequel, but I'll definitely check it out from the library.

The pages listed on Goodreads says it's only 304 pages, but the ARC I read was only a few pages shy of 400, so I'm not sure what's up with that. That said, it didn't take me long to read Soulbound and I did look forward to the time I spent reading. The pacing is that deceptive kind of slow where you can read a huge chunk in a short period of time, and even though it flew by pretty quick, looking back you realize not much actually happened to account for all those pages.

I'm not really the best reader for this book considering I'm not a fan of love triangles or insta-love. Readers who do like those things will probably love Soulbound. Though I'm not really sure if this is a paranormal or a fantasy, I think paranormal fans will be more inclined to like Soulbound. I'm ordering a copy for my library because I know it will be a big hit. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Soulbound that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

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  1. It's funny how a book can be just okay but you're still drooling at the mouth for the next one. That happens to me all the time. Is this related to the Eighth Grade Bites series at all?

  2. That was an interesting review but... I totally understand! It seems like I often complain in 3 star ratings yet I still ended up liking it. I would love to give this book a try especially after you had such mixed feelings! :)

  3. Oh, I love reading your reviews - you're awesome at making your points.

    I think the whole "I don't know where I am" thing would drive me nuts and I think that over-cursing is a real issue in books in general. People don't talk like that and made up-cursing can make things worse.

    Maddox sounds like a real baddass, though.

    I like the sound of her. But I'm totally with you on the whole Girl becomes awesome fighter after a week. I mean, Buffy was already an athlete when she becomes a vamp slayer, and she had mad skills because she was the chosen one, there was an explanation. And yeah, I hate when people play the sexist card, particularly when it's not well applied like here.

    Also, authors should get it already that love triangles only work when the person in the middle has STRONG CHEMISTRY with the two other people!

  4. Oh Small! This review made me laugh out loud! Have I ever told you how much I love love love your reviews?
    In any case, this book sounds fun, but probably not my cup of tea. What you said about the climax...that just irks the crud out of me and I probably would give the book 1 star because of it. And a boring romance? NO THANKS.
    So, yah, not for me. BUT if you like the next one, maybe I'll give it a go, brave the things I don't like for the things I might actually enjoy. ;)

    Anywho, great review, of course! :D

    Sierra @ Yearning to Read

  5. Haha, sounds like there is plenty of eyerolling to be had here! Her reasoning for sticking it to The Man sounds pretty ridiculous, and it's a shame to hear about the lack of romantic chemistry between Kaya and her insta-bond guy. I'm getting the impression this is one of those for-entertainment-only, guilty pleasure kind of reads. Thanks for your thoughts, Small!

  6. This book lost me at Insta-Love. I HATE that, and there are few things that will turn me off of a book as easily as that. I love me my smidge of romance, but that does NOT mean it doesn't what the quality is.

  7. Insta love AND eye roll sprain? Uh-oh!!!! I'm not sure I could handle both of those in the same book. Lol. Hmm...the concept intrigues me, but if I do decide to read it, I'm going to borrow it from the library. I have a bad feeling that this one won't really click with me.

  8. And to think I was really, really looking forward to this one! The world building does sound good but the MC also sounds annoying. I'm not a fan of insta-love and love triangles either and in this case, it sounds rather dull. Who cares about people trying to make each other jealous?! Thanks for the review, Small. I won't be buying this one but will see if it's available from the library :)

  9. Meh. Despite the fact that you say you did have fun reading it despite not liking many things, I think I'll skip this one. The concept and world building sound like they have potential, but I really can't deal with insta-love, stupid cliffhangers, and love triangles if they're not done right. Just not high on my priority list. But I really appreciate the helpful review, Small!

  10. So...was there a plot? Or just Maddox and the great fights and great back muscles. I was really hoping this would be good and great world building goes a long way, but you either have to have a great plot or great characters to keep me there. Sounds like it's hit or miss on the characters and not much plot. I'll wait for some more reviews and that's a lot of pages to cut out of the ARC. Did they change the typeface or something?????

  11. Oh my goodness. I couldn't agree more!!! Though, I think I may have liked Kaya a bit more than you. But she did get on my nerves. I hated Trayton. Goodness, what a whiny, pathetic pansy. He on my nerves. And yes, their relationship was sooo boring. And corny. Can't forget corny.

    I personally kinda loved Darius :P yeah, the dialogue sometimes sucked, but there was also something that hooked me in.

    but I'm left with soooo many questions. On one hand, the world-building is great. But we know nothing about the bad guy or his soldiers. Are they skilled that are on his side? Are they unskilled? Is he magical? Give me more details!

    Oh, and I totally don't understand where we are either. I know its fantasy and at first it felt like it had a sort of historical feel to it. But then there is a bunch of modern things and words. Like, the author doesn't even attempt to write old-school.

    but yes, I'm hopelessly addicted. I stayed up late finishing this book so that says something I guess. Great review!

    All the best ♥
    Mackenzie @ Oh, For the Love of Books!


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