Review: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barton

kingdome of souls

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 496
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: September 3rd, 2019



Trigger Warning: parental abuse, death of a child,



Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him. – synopsis from Goodreads


“Magic has a price if you are willing to pay it.”

NOTE: Before I get into the review, I wanted to say that you will notice if you’ve read my reviews before that I am changing up the way I do them. I’ve been struggling to write reviews and I think that is because I can’t grasp the structure of the style I was doing. I decided to try out a couple was of doing and hope they fit better with me. Let me know what you think in the comments. Now let’s get to it.

I was so excited when I saw the cover reveal for Kingdom of Souls. Honestly, it’s one of the most gorgeous covers of the year. Plus it was pitched as a very Black Panther book which hooked me even more. I just couldn’t wait to get my copy, read it and fall in love with the story. But unfortunately, this one was a miss for me.


When I first started Kingdom of Souls, I was really intrigued by everything that was going on; from the magic system to the characters I felt that it started off strong. The further I got in the story though, the more I began to lose interest in what was happening and in the characters. I tend to struggle with books where there is constant action and that don’t leave us a moment to breathe and settle in the story. For me, it felt almost like the book could’ve been cut in at least two different books. There was so much information given to us and at the same time not enough, if that makes sense. I wanted more information on the magic system and the people since there are different tribes in the book. The whole book is very dense and it kind of took me out of the story.

The Characters

Arrah is our main character, though she is strong and courageous I just didn’t care about what she was going through. In the beginning, I found her super whinny and just wanted her to get over it. As the plot evolved I wanted her to start making her own decisions and stop following others. I think she got there in the end but I just wanted a bit more from her throughout the book.

Rudjeck was just… I don’t even know how I feel about him. He’s Arrah’s best friend and main love interest but I didn’t really feel the banter between these two. He’s a good strong male lead but just didn’t have that spark which makes a character great.

Arti though she is a complex character, I thought she was just a horrible person. As we discover more of her story it feels like we are pushed to think of her as a morally grey character. I just wanted her to go away LOL The things she does to her daughter Arrah are just dreadful to me no matter what she endured in her past.

Efiya comes in later to the story and I am still not sure what her role in all this was. Her character arc for me was rushed and didn’t feel thought out. I might have misinterpreted the author’s intention with her but I felt like the story would have led to the same place without her.

The Setting

The setting for the story is amazing. We need more fantasy set in an inspired African world, the richness of the myths and culture is astounding.  I would’ve liked to know a little bit more about the land and areas where the characters travel, the parts that Rena described really came to life for me. I also thought the magic system was intriguing and fairly well thought out.

Final thoughts

I wanted to love this one so much since we do not get many African myth-inspired fantasies. In the end, it was just an ok read and left me breathless not for the right reasons.


6 thoughts on “Review: Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barton

  1. Great review, Mir! I really like this review style and I’ve found that the few times I’ve tried this format, it really worked for me too! 😊 I don’t know why I didn’t keep doing it but lately I’ve been thinking about going back to this style again. Sorry to hear that this one was disappointing though! The African inspired world sounds fascinating but it’s defo frustrating when you can’t connect to the characters. Honestly, how you feel about this book reminds me of how I felt about the one I just finished 😅


  2. Great honest review! I’m sorry you didn’t love this book. It’s currently on my TBR list but I’m not sure that’ll pick it up anytime soon. I hope you’re enjoying your current read.

    BTW I also follow the same review format because it makes much easier for me to write reviews.


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