The Soul Keepers, by Devon Taylor
Publish Date: July 3, 2018
Published by: Swoon Reads
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received an egalley of this from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
Death is just the beginning.
After dying in a terrible car accident, Rhett awakens in the afterlife and is recruited to join the crew of the Harbinger, a colossal seafaring vessel tasked with ferrying the souls of the dead. To where exactly, no one knows. But the crew must get the souls there, and along the way protect them from vicious soul-eating monsters that will stop at nothing to take the ship and all of its occupants.
Rhett and his new friends have a hard enough time fighting back the monsters that grow bolder and more ferocious every day. But then a new threat emerges, a demon who wants something that Rhett has. And if she gets it, it could mean the end of everything… for both the living and the dead.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and while the writing style was definitely good and easy to get through, there was something that just didn’t click for me. In fact, I almost DNF’d it several times in the first half, but decided to continue with it because it was moving so quickly and I thought I might get into it at some point. There were definitely missing elements to the story and plot, and just a scraping of the surface of the characters that left me wanting more from them than what I got.
The story threw the reader right into things from the start, that’s for sure. The pacing of everything was decent and it was easy to move through each chapter despite their lengths. But there were a lot of issues in terms of overall plot and storytelling that left me feeling very lackluster about the book as a whole. To begin with, the entire first half of the book is just basically world-building and info-dumping. It introduces the characters, the premise of what the “syllektors” do, and answers all the necessary questions about what afterlife is like aboard the Harbinger (which, by the way, had a lot of updated technology and entertainment and weaponry and no explanation as to how it all got there other than a casual shrug). You get Rhett going through his emotional release about his parents’ deaths, and that’s it. No plot movement really whatsoever.
Part Two is where things actually start happening. The demon lady shows up and gives Rhett a cryptic warning about not defying her when she comes to take his yet-unkown power. Uh…okay? Psychons (the grim reaper monsters that eat souls instead of saving them in a box for a neverending trip down the River Styx like the syllektors do) suddenly start attacking them “more often” (*cough* twice *cough*), and that’s when all Hades breaks loose.
Honestly, some of it felt like a mess. The characters were definitely a mess. While Rhett had some good progress, Basil and Mak were given strong outgoing personalities that obviously hid a little more, but they constantly kept regressing to those original traits. Basil was the one always cracking jokes. Mak was constantly getting angry at people. Treeny was always shy and timid. Theo was…a wall of muscle who seemed kind I guess. It just seemed like while they had some sort of awesome personalities, they never actually showed them on the page. And so when things started happening at the end of the novel, there had been no foreshadowing or hints about certain characters and it left me feeling rather annoyed, like the opposite of a deus ex machina. Instead of something random happening to make everything better, something random happened to make it all worse, because before that there had been no real precedent or, like I said, foreshadowing.
I think mostly I was just disappointed in the way the characters’ personalities sort of got lost in the shuffle and the way the story was written. The first half was just too much world-building and information-giving, and the second half everything happened too quickly and suddenly for anything to really make sense. Demon lady just appears out of nowhere and demands a power and Rhett starts trying to tie super loose ends together to make a somewhat plausible motive? Yeah, no.
Like I said, this book had some good writing and was easy to get through in a timely manner, and had the potential to be good, but it was lacking just enough that it lost its cohesiveness and left me unimpressed with it at all.