Thursday, September 18, 2014

Soulless by Amber Garr

The Basics:
Soulless by Amber Garr
Hallowed Ink Press
Book One in the Death Wardens series
YA Paranormal Romance
Published August 20, 2014
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

I liked the idea of Death Wardens who help the newly dead into the great beyond. I also found the clash of an ex and a new potential love to be somewhat intriguing.


When it comes to death and love…only one is guaranteed. 

Four decades ago Nora died. A tragic event for someone so young; however, four decades ago Nora was also given a second chance to walk among the living. 

A Death Warden with a mysterious past, her job is to escort the newly expired towards the light, battling with the Soul Hunters who want the freshly dead to help with their own evil purposes buried in the dark. 

When Nora’s charges suddenly become targets, she realizes that the hunters are after far more than just souls. A shift in power between good and evil threatens to change everything, risking the lives of the only family Nora has ever known. 

Devastated and angry, she’s forced to face the man she once loved - a man who chose darkness over her - in order to find the answers she needs to stop the horror from escalating. Yet, while a lost relationship still haunts her broken heart, a new Warden with secrets of his own will enter the mix and quickly alter everything Nora believed to be true. 

Death is unavoidable…but sometimes, so is love.

My thoughts:

Soulless is a quickly paced, life-beyond-death adventure. The story follows Nora's perspective as she first loses another soul to a Soul Hunter, and then is charged with mentoring a new Warden. Chaos ensues.  Okay, not quite. But things are definitely topsy-turvey in Nora's (after)world. 

Nora's reasonably likeable - she's still coping with a break-up that happened a couple of years ago (but came out of the blue), she yearns for a connection and she quickly latches onto her ward, Jason.

Jason's, well, he's sexy. He's got some powers that are apparently unusual for a Death Warden. And he's reasonably charming, having been both a cowboy and a soldier before his own death.

Nora and Jason are two sides of a... sort of a love triangle? Nora's ex, Theron, is still sort of in the picture, and it's fairly complicated. I do like how Soulless handles this for this most part, though why everyone thinks fight training is a great time for public flirtation/seduction is beyond me. (Okay, I concede that the revealing outfits and physical contact is suggestive).

Now, the problem with Soulless is that I think it puts these great ideas on the table, and then never capitalizes on them. Death Wardens who help usher souls between this life and the next?  Cool! But we only see this happen twice during the book, and neither time seems to be particularly significant to the plot of the story. Are Wardens actually performing a necessary service or could souls pilot themselves towards the white light? How about Soul Hunters? Are they powered by souls or do they want them for some nefarious purpose? And other than having a contentious co-existence around this soul ferrying or jacking, why are they?   

I really wanted more exploration of the basics of these roles, but instead Soulless focuses on the disruption of the status quo. This is a completely fair approach, of course, other than that I was left with questions and feeling like something was left on the table. There are other moments in the book that gave me this feeling - for example, Nora gets involved in something with her new Advisor, Sani, and apparently disappears for a week. Which is commented on by a couple of people when she returns, but no one ever presses back on this to find out what the heck happened or why she had to be gone for so long when she's received a new Ward who needs her guidance and so on. It was an event that I thought felt more significant to me than it was to anyone in the book, and I found that a tad frustrating. 

This is the start of a series, and I hope Nora asks more questions and investigates more moving forward. The pacing in this book was good, and it was a quick read. I'm curious to know what happens next, so ultimately the book was more successful than not for me. 

Bottom line:

A promising start to a paranormal series - I'd probably call this paranormal romance instead of tagging it with YA. A quickly paced plot that sometimes neglects to capitalize on great moments, Soulless introduces some cool ideas around death and an ongoing battle for souls.

3.5 stars
For fans of good vs evil stories, love triangles, post-death stories.

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