There is a nearly even divide of good & bad here with the good coming out a nose ahead of the bad.
Here we go with a "Pros & Cons" review, as that seems to be my go-to with 3 star books. In this review though, I'm going to italicize the pros and bold the cons because often times there are positive & negative aspects of the same point.
The writing takes on a beautiful, French-influenced style, but is oddly constructed & tiresome to read.
Soul of the World is written in a way that causes my inner narrator to stumble all over the page. She tends to do that a little bit anyway, but in particular I found myself going back to reread sentences way more than I am comfortable with.
A couple peculiar, recurring word choices combined with an occasionally odd sentence structure had me feeling a little like I was reading a translation. The author's profile says that he speaks French, which may explain where some of the unfamiliar phrasing & language structure come from.
Now, this may not be a problem for everyone who reads this book, but it was for me.
That being said, I really enjoyed the French influence where naming conventions are concerned. Sometimes a paragraph or sentence would strike me exactly the way it was intended to, and seeing those moments in this book were lovely.
The magic systems in this world are unique & interesting, but the lack of a specific focus on any one system made it a little difficult to ground myself in the world.
To put it plainly, there's a lot going on here. There's a leyline manipulation system, a spirit-based system that branches off into several different types of power (shaman, guardian, etc.), and a magic possessed by small dragon companions called kaas.
Each one of these systems is really cool, with a couple distinctive features that can be difficult to accomplish in a genre that has already covered every conceivable magical concept. But the reader is kept at an arm's length while reading about them, never delving into any of the three in intimate detail.
There is a lot of magic-related talk throughout the book, but little in the way of thorough explanation which results in the reader feeling very much in the dark.
The main characters of this book are easily distinguishable from one another & given equal significance to the plot, but none of the three ever reached out to connect with me.
Sarine, Erris, and Arak'Jur all endure a range of physical & emotional challenges. They all experience some development, and they all feel believable within the bounds of the world Mealing has created. I had a few scattered moments where my investment spiked, but I never felt myself establish a personal link to any of them.
The plot is well thought out & complex, but the payoff of the conclusion is not worth the time it takes to get there.
Soul of the World spends the first 50% establishing each character in their routine existence. The last 50% details their role in the current conflict & begins weaving together their individual tales. This is normally a layout I can get behind.
Slow paces are my favorite, as I feel it allows the author much more time for world-building. The world Mealing has built here is by no means poorly assembled. I love the military & old world atmosphere that is established here.
But more often than not, I was slogging through the minutiae of the story just waiting for an interesting revelation or an action scene to pull me back in.
Overall, I'm glad to have read this story. Mealing is an author to keep an eye on, because this is a wonderful accomplishment of a debut. With a little more experience, all the tools to create something new & amazing are present.
***I received a copy of Soul of the World from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Orbit and David Mealing for this opportunity.***
Publication Date: June 27th, 2017