Soulbinder

Soulbinder


Title: Soulbinder

Author: Sebastien de Castell

Series: Spellslinger, #4

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: October 4th 2018

Rating:

Five Stars

The fourth book in the page-turning Spellslinger fantasy series.

Kellen and his murderous squirrel cat, Reichis, are on their own. They’ve heard rumour of a mythical monastery, known as the Ebony Abbey. It’s a place that outsiders can never find—but Kellen is getting desperate. He’s been told that the monks inside the Ebony Abbey know more about the Shadowblack than anyone else—and that they even know how to cure it.

Then Kellen and Reichis are separated and for the first time, Kellen must face the world alone – and venture deeper into shadow magic than he ever knew he could.

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review may contain spoilers for previous book(s) in the series.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“People sometimes do awful things in the name of discovery, Kellen. They want so badly to understand how the universe works that they’ll commit any act, no matter how dark or soulless, to find answers to the questions that haunt them.”
People like my own grandmother apparently.

After everything Kellen and Reichis have faced and survived it seems like they’ve finally met their end. Left for dead in the middle of the desert after a failed search for the mythical Ebony Abbey, a place rumoured to cure shadowblack, Kellen has all but given up when he’s saved by two monks from the fabled abbey. However Kellen soon realises he was wrong about them having the cure for the shadowblack, and even worse they only saved him, leaving Reichis behind to die.

Ever since the shadowblack markings around his eyes were revealed Kellen has been hoping for a cure, and since leaving Ferius and Nephenia at the end of Charmcaster that’s what he’s been looking for. The Ebony Abbey is nothing more than a myth but it’s all Kellen has. Soulbinder was a very different book to the first three, having left Ferius and Nephenia behind, and losing Reichis to the desert Kellen is on his own, the people he’s relied on for so long lost to him.

“Kellen?” The faint chitter drifted across the barren black landscape, so faint it could easily have been my imagination.
“Reichis?”
Silence for a few seconds, then even more faintly. “Kellen, where are you? I’m hurt, Kellen. I keep trying to get up, but I—”

The Ebony Abbey is a place where Kellen can be safe to live with his marks surrounded by people with similar ones, but he refuses to abandon Reichis even when everything that’s revealed to him about the abbey means there’s less and less chance his friend is still alive. However there’s more at stake than just his friend’s life; Kellen’s father has summoned a war coven, seventy seven powerful mages determined to wipe out the shadowblack plague once and for all, and they’re heading straight for the abbey.

Soulbinder isn’t like any of the other books in this series; without Ferius mentoring him and without Reichis to snap back at Kellen is truly alone. The lightness of the previous books has been replaced with grief and fear as Kellen’s desperately tries to save Reichis, misses Ferius and Nephenia, and prepares to go to war with his father. That being said I loved this book, it was full of emotion and I couldn’t tear myself away as I waited to find out what had happened to my favourite characters and what would happen to them next.

…The Characters

“I’m sorry, Ferius, I thought.
As much as I’d tried to study her gentler ways, I’d learned just as much about fighting from Reichis. Squirrel cats, for all their big talk, are small animals. Fragile. Like me.”

Kellen has never been on his own before, but in Soulbinder he’s forced to rely solely on himself with no backup only a shout away from either a mysterious Argosi traveller or a murderous squirrel cat. It was an interesting direction for Kellen’s character but at the same time kind of necessary too, Kellen needs to know he can stand on his own and in terms of his character development I feel like it was the only way to take him further after his growth in Charmcaster.

After spending so much time with them both Kellen is a mixture of Ferius and Reichis, with his own quirks thrown in. He doesn’t make any effort to be liked by the other shadowblacks in the abbey, giving as good as he gets when they try to put him down, he has his own kind of arta valar to talk his enemies in circles, and when that fails he’s willing to attack. Even though they aren’t present in this book both Ferius and Reichis are close in a Kellen’s mind and heart.

“Ke’heops,” he confirmed, “Lord of the House of Ke. Your father.” A thin-lipped chuckle. “You really have been a terribly disobedient son, haven’t you?”
“He wouldn’t do this! Not just to kill me!”
“What’s the old saying? ‘A father’s love is only ever exceeded by his wrath.'”

Despite being away from them Kellen’s relationship with his family has developed as well. Both Ke’heops and Shalla are typical Jan’Tep mages; powerful and stubborn they both have a firm belief that their people come first before all others. As far as sibling relationships go I love the one between Kellen and Shalla. There’s no doubt in my mind that Shalla loves her brother but she keeps trying to do what’s bests for him by doing what would be best for her, and she ends up betraying him and what he’s standing for.

“I never asked to come to this damned abbey!” I shouted at him. “I just want to leave and find my friend!”
My outrage only seemed to spur his indignation. “Shadowblacks don’t have friends. We only have each other. You’re either one of us or you’re one of them.”

It was interesting getting to meet the other shadowblacks at the Ebony Abbey. All of them are aware their lives aren’t going to be long, not with a demon feeding off them who will one day break free, but they’re determined to live their lives to the fullest and that’s what they do. Diadera’s shadowblack markings are from the same plane as Kellen’s, giving them a unique bond, Suta’rei is another Jan’Tep who fled her clan when she was infected with her markings, Tournam seems determined to believe Kellen a spy, and Butelios is the only one Kellen meets in the abbey who seems honest.

All of them have their own unique powers, a side effect of the shadowblack markings, and all of them have found a home and safe haven at the abbey. It could be the same for Kellen. He could have a family with the shadowblacks at Ebony Abbey, safe from the bounty his father put on his head, but it’s not the path he’s travelling down. Even though they’ve accepted their fate Kellen hasn’t given up on understanding his marks and finding a cure for them.

…The Setting

“Despite all the trials and tribulations in our way, we’d found out mythical monastery in the desert, or rather, it had found us. Problem was, it hadn’t gotten its name because they had a cure for the shadowblack.
They called it the Ebony Abbey because the monks who lived there embraced it.”

While Soulbinder carries on the series’ trend of taking us to a new setting and exploring life there for one book, it also expanded on the shadowblack plague which has been mentioned and built on since the very first book. The Ebony Abbey is hidden from the rest of the world, safe from those who would hunt the inhabitants down and kill them simply for the marks they have, but they’re open to take in those also suffering from the shadowblack. We get to see the different powers the different shadowblacks have, the way the planes their markings come from affect the abilities the shadows give them, and even get small but terrifying glimpses as to what happens when the shadowblack completely takes over.


Forget what I said in my previous review about Charmcaster being my favourite book of the series, because Soulbinder is. It was different to the previous three books but I was really emotionally invested in this story, as Kellen tries his hardest to save Reichis from so so far away, and I couldn’t put Soulbinder down until I reached the last page.

What did you think of Soulbinder? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

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