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01 March 2012 @ 05:21 pm
My Soul to Save Review  
And it's that time again!

Up for review today is the next in Rachel Vincent's Soul Screamers series: My Soul to Save. This is the second novel in the series and also probably the book that made me really get into the series.

  Alright, lets' talk about worldbuilding. As always with my reviews, I find myself basically incapable of discussing books without delving into something spoilery. So there. Consider that your big, bold warning and proceed at your own risk.

 First, the idea of a demonic or "other" world (not necessarily a magical realism, but more like an Underworld) has always fascinated me. Anything that connects the living world, the one that we all exist in with the world of souls, ghouls, and spectres (as well as demonic nasties and hellions) is good in my book. I love seeing how people create these places. Obviously, it's really difficult. Do you, as an author, follow Dante, a particular religious belief, Virgil, or do you do some crazy new age interpretation that satisfies no one because it's constantly open to interpretation? I found that you can learn a lot about a person from the way that they construct their Underworld.

  In particular, what I liked about the Netherworld is its mirroring of the real world. Buildings and other places exist there, but in a warped light. Likewise, private homes are empty lots (most often). I like the idea of world layering, and Vincent does this pretty well. Kaylee, as a character that can see through the boundaries between worlds, slowly finds out about the thin line separating her world from others-- which is cool because I like the way that the scope of the story expands from the focus on hellions coming into the mortal plane and now the mortals trying to even the score. It's a natural progression and it's a world that the reader will keep on wanting to find out more about. Vincent lets us have just enough insight into the Netherworld that we're not overwhelmed and neither are we bored of it-- it's tantalizing, as readers, there's just enough of it shown to catch our eye and then it goes back into its little world box for later use. I love this: it prompts the reader to invent things on their own, to figure out what they think this crazy, magical place is like, too.

As far as character development goes in this book, I was pretty impressed. Kaylee and Nash begin to find out more about souls, exchanges, and the world of dealing with demons for success and fame. Vincent tackles an interesting subject: the idea of selling one's soul for fame, fortune, or anything else that you might want. I am particularly fond of this, since the way that she explores what it's like for a character to lose their soul makes a lot of sense to me. It's not something that's taken lightly, as you might see done a lot in other series: what I like is that it has bite. If you die without your soul, then you spend the rest of eternity in the clutches of a hellion and being tortured. These are regular humans that we are talking about: people without special powers, people who don't get to live forever, people who thought that they would make a bargain to get themselves something better in their lives. And Vincent shows them paying for their actions. She's not afraid to make the idea of punishment very real, and that's what I like about her-- where a lot of others might take the easy way out, she really pushes her world to conform to an "inhumane" image. I say this as a compliment because her world shouldn't be human. It should be inhuman, inhuman, amoral, and everything, because it's run by creatures operating outside our mythos. And it's wonderful that Vincent does this.

Speaking more specifically about characters: I guess I'm going to comment most on Tod here, because (again) he's my favorite and I think it's really neat to see how he develops in this book. Tod, as you may know, is a reaper and died technically two years ago. Before then, though, he was dating a girl named Addison Page who later went onto become a popular singer thanks to a deal that she made with a hellion of greed. However, when Tod finds out that Addy is going to die without her soul and be condemned to an eternity of torture, he pulls out all the stops in order to get her out of her contract. He calls in Kaylee and Nash to help her out, and both of them (Nash a lot less enthusiastically, because he understands the danger that Kaylee is putting herself into) make their best efforts to get Addy out of her mess. Yet, where this might be enough in other books, it is not here. Just when Kaylee has developed a (pretty good, actually) plan for getting Addy's soul back, Addy's younger sister also sells her soul, and the trio must cope with that. Tod throughout the book is interesting to watch especially. Before the events of the book, he hadn't presented himself to Addy since he died, since he figured that it would be too much for her to handle. In My Soul to Save, Tod has to confront his unresolved issues with Addy. Leading up to the end, it becomes more and more apparent that Tod is preparing to say good-bye to her once and for all rather than trying to keep her alive.

But still, the reader expects Addy to get her soul back and for everything to be okay, right? Because that's the thing that would make the story wrap up neatly. Vincent, though, does not do this. Instead, Addy sacrifices her soul for her little sister's and dies, becoming the possession of a hellion.

Tod is understandably distraught, as are Kaylee and Nash. All the work that they had done to save Addy, while not wasted, did not achieve the full effect that they had hoped for. Something good came of it, but Addy is still trapped in the Netherworld. This is great (I mean, obviously, it's horrible for Addy); and it's great because it shows just how unafraid Vincent is to put her characters into places that they have to fight to get out of. Real life isn't pretty. Real life sucks sometimes, and sucks in ways possibly greater than one can imagine. But this is the beauty of the human imagination: in order to accurately portray something, even if your characters are essentially fictional, you need to throw them into an unbelievably bad situation and see what they do to claw their way out of it.

Tod copes by attending the funeral (only visible to Kaylee~ for some reason ;D ) and exacting his revenge on Dekker, the man who forced Addy into signing the contract. But at the end, Vincent offers an interesting perspective: is Tod all that wrong? Dekker has ruined countless lives and damned so many people to eternal torture already-- does he deserve to be shown kindness? Kaylee has a tough time grappling with this at the end, and I think it's a great question, and a really difficult one to answer. I love that Vincent confronts big moral issues like this in her work in addition to crafting a really engaging and fun to read story like this. She's not afraid to make her characters and her readers think about difficult or sensitive issues, and that's part of the reason why I admire her as an author.

Overall, I highly recommend it. My Soul to Save is full of Vincent's trademark twists and won't disappoint.