The Soul of the World – David Mealing

About the Book

It is a time of revolution. in the cities, food shortages stir citizens to riots against the crown. In the wilds, new magic threatens the dominance of the tribes. and on the battlefields, even the most brilliant commanders struggle in the shadow of total war. Three lines of magic must be mastered in order to usher in a new age, and three heroes must emerge.

Sarine is an artist on the streets of New Sarresant whose secret familiar helps her uncover bloodlust and madness where she expected only revolutionary fervor.

Arak’Jur wields the power of beasts to keep his people safe, but his strength cannot protect them from war amongst themselves.

Erris 
is a brilliant cavalry officer trying to defend New Sarresant from an enemy general armed with magic she barely understands.

Each must learn the secrets of their power in time to guide their people through ruin. But a greater evil may be trying to stop them.

656 pages
Published by Orbit
Published on June 27, 2017
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

You guys, I finished this book about a hundred years ago (not really. It’s only been out for a few months), but I totally lost track of myself in my freelance editing gig, and then my writing-a-book gig and forgot to review it, or say a word about it on Goodreads. I’m trying hard to learn how to balance the three poles of my life right now (editing, writing, reviewing) so we shall see how this all plays out.

Hopefully I won’t spend months silent while I’m lost with my head who-knows-where anymore. Regardless, I’m trying to catch up where I left off, and write some reviews for books I read a while ago and then forgot to say anything about.

This, being one of them.

The Soul of the World is a book after my own heart. First of all, the world is dark, dark, dark, and the plot is epic, epic, epic (be still, my heart). There are elements here that are reminiscent of our own world. The book takes place on a sort of new world type continent. The peoples are on the edge of rebellion, and in outright war in some aspects. There are huge population control issues – the higher class live fantastic lives while the average person has a hell of a time finding enough food to eat each day.

So you take all these elements, throw in a few characters that make you sit up and take notice, a dash of magic just to make things interesting. Give it all a good stir and cook it until the atmosphere is tense enough to make your spine crack.

Then you have The Soul of the World.

I’m pretty reluctant to trust hype about debut novels, not because they aren’t deserving, but because sometimes I read them, and I don’t feel the hype that I think I’m supposed to feel and all this weird guilt sets in. This isn’t one of those books. It was hyped up, and recommended to me by a bunch of reviewer friends, and I absolutely felt every inch of the hype that was promised.

There’s a lot of high-stakes action and intrigue. Sometimes I felt like there was a little too much magic. Some of the characters fell into their typical roles a bit too readily – the villain(s) sometimes felt a little too villain-ish, for example. However, despite those minor issues, the book carried itself really nicely. Readers are automatically introduced to some important elements, like class issues and some of the magic, while others take time to really unfold. A lot of the military action took some time for me to come to grips with, but that military action was often an important machine for helping me understand the wider world, the laws of the land (so to speak), and larger scoping problems that are less intimate than the ones that are faced when the book takes place in the city.

Some of the POV characters will appeal to readers more than others, which is typical for any book. Some of them took me a while to really enjoy the way I was probably supposed to, but once enough time passed and I felt comfortable with the world and the unfolding story, I really started to relax and enjoy everyone I was presented with. I enjoyed how Mealing kept the book both intimate and grand in scope. A lot of the issues faced are hugely important, but are only really realized on a personal level, while some of the important catalysts for events are these huge events that have grand, sweeping plot arcs. Mealing did both modes of storytelling justice, and made both the small details and the grand sweeping arcs feel just as important as each other. I don’t run across that in books very often, and I really appreciated it here. I respect authors who respect details, as well as sweeping gestures.

The world is dark. The action is both intimate and grand, and this is the first book in a series and serves as a setup for whatever happens next. As a setup, it’s one that I really, really enjoyed. A full story takes place in a book, but there are so many plot threads left open, and the ending is done in such a way that I can hardly wait to read the next book. I love dark fantasy, and I love epic fantasy, and if you ask my humble opinion, this book is just about a perfect mashup of the two.

This is one hell of a debut novel, and one I highly recommend.

4/5 stars

 

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