Soulbound was a great mix of all things fantasy. You’ve got superhuman beings (Barrons and Healers), ferocious beasts (Graplars) and a school hidden away from it all, to teach these special students how to use their powers to fight for a mysterious cause.
The cover is perfect in giving us a glimpse into this world where the katana in its intricately forged glory is the weapon of choice in defeating Graplars. I love the attitude that comes off of the cover, and the chain mail mask hints at the importance of training masks later on.
The story follows Kaya, a Healer, and her Barron parents as they live a relatively quiet but happy life tucked away in the obscurity of a countryside village. Until one fateful day, Kaya’s carefree world comes tumbling down in a rain of blood. Kaya’s parent’s attempts to hide her from a senseless war is no longer possible when they are delivered with an ultimatum by the Zettai Council - the ruling authority of Barrons and Healers - that Kaya is to join their ranks, or else and so begins Kaya’s journey into the heart of it all where she learns just how important to the cause she truly is.
Kaya is definitely a character to be admired for her strong sense of duty, persistence, morals and overall smart ass remarks. Although at times, there’s a certain petulance to her voice when she continually mouths off to her teachers and it just serves to make her seem far younger to the reader than her 17 years. But she does have a clear head about her, she asks all the right questions (which the adults of course never give a straight answer to) and when she doesn’t get what she wants she takes matters into her own hands.
There’s two main male characters to really pay attention to in this story, and each one has his own unique role to Kaya.
A tiny aside that you need to know is that Barrons are specifically paired with Healers who each have a specific role in the battlefield. The character Trayton is Barron to Kaya’s Healer and he was so adorable from the beginning! He’s always super nice to everyone, and he just seems to radiate an air of comfort, safety and confidence - I took a liking to him immediately like Kaya did. Their relationship is a bit complicated, and it does escalate to something a bit more. What I absolutely love about their relationship is that anytime any feelings get muddled, or drama ridden - they sit down and talk it out! I applaud Brewer for this because it was so refreshing to not have to agonize and think “Ugh this could all be solved if they just sat down and TALKED!”
Now while Trayton was adorable for the most part, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a darker side to him. He follows rules to the letter, and would die before even thinking of doing something against his teachings - even for Kaya.
Which makes way for the enigma that is Darius, an Unskilled (aka humans without super powers). He captivated my attention from the very beginning when he makes his very dramatic sword-swinging entrance. He’s such a multi-layered character with a rich backstory and secrets galore! He’s been through a lot, and it’s definitely reflected in his voice. He sounds and acts incredibly mature, despite his 17 years, and serves as a battle trainer at the academy. After we get past his hard exterior, his interactions with Kaya are among some of my favorite - they make a kick ass pair!
The world that Brewer crafts makes me think of medieval villages mixed with a Hogwarts-esque academy. The secondary characters from the snarky devoted guard/best friend, to the drama queen bee of the school and the neurotic teachers were a great support cast in the story.
Brewer takes this book to establish the mythology of this world, and the stringent roles that Barrons and Healers play. My only real complaint would probably be that we never really get an explanation for the “why” of this war, and we don’t meet the main villain yet, we just get his minions and glimpses of his influence for now. I’m expecting this to probably be rectified in the subsequent books.
The whole story starts out strong, but it ends up slowing down and lingering for a bit before driving the reader through an intense ending that’s packed with plot twists, blood spraying action and a jaw dropping event at the end that makes me want the next one right now!!