Soulbinder: This time, Kellen must go it alone

Soulbinder by Sebastien de Castell science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSoulbinder by Sebastien de Castell science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsSoulbinder by Sebastien de Castell

In the first three books of Sebastien deCastell’s SPELLSLINGER series, Kellen, son of a powerful Jan’Tep sorcerous family and follower of the Argosi way, has been able to count on a loyal and powerful support network. Reichis, a squirrel-cat, is thieving and verbally abusive, but fierce and faithful. Ferrius, an Argosy traveler, has taught Kellen much about the power of magic and of life. In Soulbinder (2018), the fourth book of six planned, Kellen finds himself alone, forced to rely only on his own resources.

(This review may have mild spoilers for the previous books.)

Kellen carries a demonic infection called shadowblack. At the end of Charmcaster, Kellen and Reichis slipped off on their own. Kellen sought a cure for the infection, and he believed it would be better for his friends if he is away from them. He seeks a place called the Ebony Abbey, where it is rumored the monks have found a cure for shadowblack, or at least a way to contain it. Soon, though, Reichis and Kellen are dying in the desert, and then they are separated. Then Kellen is abducted, although his abductors call it “rescued,” and when he is taken to the Ebony Abbey he finds out that is it not at all what he expected — and that shadowblack can be more terrifying than his worst fears.

As if things weren’t bad enough, Kellen soon discovers that his father, the new political leader of the Jan’Tep, is leading a battle coven of sixty-seven sorcerers to find and destroy the abbey, and with it, perhaps Kellen’s only chance for a cure. And there is a sense that something dire has happened to both of his friends.

Queenslayer (Spellslinger) Paperback – May 21, 2019 by Sebastien de Castell (Author)

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Most of Soulbinder is Kellen learning to be on his own, trying to apply the lessons both Ferrius and Reichis have taught him. As is the usual pattern for a de Castell book, Kellen fails, fails again, fails some more until he wins. Along the way he nearly always manages to alienate powerful people, but somehow, he also manages to be a leader, and get people to act from their better natures.

This book delves into the nature of the shadowblack more deeply, and gives Kellen another magical tool, although he may not know how to manage it yet.

If I have a fault with the book, it’s that Kellen’s desire to believe his powerful sister Shalla continues to override his sense. Shalla loves him but is loyal to Ke’heops. She is the most powerful sorcerer among the Jan’Tep. Kellen knows where her loyalties lie but he continues to trust her when her betrayal of him is transparent. For people who used to read the comic strip Peanuts, Shalla is Lucy to Kellen’s Charlie Brown, and her help is the football.

On the plus side, Kellen’s struggles with his father, which Ke’heops insists are strengthening him, are changing the warlock king too, even though he doesn’t realize it.

Soulbinder introduces another form of magic into Kellen’s world and gives us a slate of new interesting characters, including another warrior woman. Mysteries are left unsolved for the next book, Queenslayer, due out later this month (May 2019). Kellen is as snarky and self-deprecating as ever, the action is great, and the magic continues to intrigue. The SPELLSLINGER series chugs along nicely, with Soulbinder as an entertaining addition.

Published in December 2018. A failed mage learns that just because he’s not the chosen one it doesn’t mean he can’t be a hero in the fourth book of an exciting adventure fantasy series from Sebastien de Castell.For an outlaw spellslinger, the only way to survive is to hide. Kellen’s curse is growing stronger, promising a future of madness and murder. And now that the bounty hunter sworn to kill ever last shadow black have caught his trail, he knows his days are numbered. Desperate, Kellen braves a barren desert to find a mysterious order of monks rumored to posses a cure. But there are secrets darker and more dangerous than Kellen expected, and the price of his salvation may be more than he’s willing to pay.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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