Book Review: Soulbound by Heather Brewer

soulbound cover

View from the window seat:
Warning: this review contains spoilers. 
After reading the blurb on the back about a world defined by a deep bond between Healers and the warrior Barrons who protect them, I was really excited to read this book. I’m sad to report that it fell short in so many ways. Let me begin with the world building. While we’re given the name of the world, Tril, and some of the continents, there’s absolutely nothing else to create a setting. The majority of the book takes place in the Academy, a self-contained school that could be anywhere in the universe. Then there’s the ridiculous Protocol. The Protocol is a set of absurd rules that don’t make any sense. Rules are in place to keep the world from dissolving into chaos, as one character tells our heroine Kaya. I fail to see how allowing Barrons to date each other would make the world burst into flames and dissolve in a heap. Or how allowing a Healer to fetch her own food from the cafeteria would cause mass panic and uproar. And the Protocol only applies to Healers and Barrons, while the Unskilled  (everyone else) live out there lives however they want. We know that they can function without Protocol, because Kaya grew up in an Unskilled village. That was another reason why I didn’t like the world. I could see no reason why the Skilled (Healers and Barrons) had to be kept secret from the Unskilled. How is it that, considering the Protocol dictates the lives of the Skilled and takes away much of their freedom, Kaya is the only person in the entire world to ever question the rules? Healers are referred to as subservient by their instructors, and yet none of them have a problem with this?

Now onto our characters. The book’s blurb calls Kaya strong, but she’s mostly just annoying. She’s constantly asking obvious questions and panics every single time she’s in danger. She also suffers from the I’m-suddenly-skilled-with-weapons-despite-only-training-for-a-week writing cop out. She literally spends a week training and suddenly she’s as good as a Barron, who we’re told (repeatedly) has inhuman speed and strength that can’t be matched physically by a Healer, which is what Kaya is. She also whines constantly about how she’s not a damsel-in-distress, how she needs to protect herself, and yet is constantly being saved by her male cohorts. That brings us to the typical love triangle. While Darius is an interesting character, Trayton is flat. I don’t understand how he can be in love with her when she lies to him for most of the book and more importantly, he completely disregards and disrespects the one true passion she has in the entire book.

The writing I found to be more telling than showing and very repetitive. Also, the author made up curse words that tore me out of the story because of their ridiculousness and their similarity to our curse words. It’s like the author only used them so that the book could get past publishing censors or something.

Overall impression:
Weak characterization and world building made Soulbound a huge letdown after such a promising premise.

Rating:
3

Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

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