“I can tell someone when they’re going to die. All I need is a lock of their hair and their soul.”
Well, I think we can all agree that that sounds like a great party trick. I would love to wander around parties after a couple of gins with a pair of scissors, claiming souls, chopping off locks, and generally terrifying people. That said, I don’t fancy Selestra’s life, so I’ll probably give it a pass. Selestra is destined to do this as her job once her mother dies; as the king’s witch, she will give predictions and snatch souls (denying them safe passage to their afterlife, the River of Memory) in order to feed them to the king and protect his immortality. King Seryth is vile. I hated him from the moment I met him. He’s awful to Selestra. If I were the Somnatis witch in charge of reaping a hundred souls each month so he could continue his disgusting existence, I simply would not.
Selestra doesn’t want this life. She hates it. She is ashamed of what her family do and she wants something more for herself. She doesn’t want to be a monster working for the king and thriving on death. Selestra wants to choose her own destiny, to be who she is and do what she wants to do rather than living the life that has been chosen for her. She has big mummy issues; she feels like she needs to prove her worth to her mother, but her mother is aloof, rarely shows any sign of caring for her and prioritises the king over her, so it’s hardly surprising she’s not winning a Mummy of the Year award. Selestra (and the reader) keep hoping that there is a kinder version of her mother in there, but it seems unlikely.
Princess of Souls begins more or less with the start of the festival, where the people come to the castle in hope of winning a wish. All they have to do is hand over their soul, hear their death predicted and then survive two weeks without dying. It sounds relatively straight forward, but let’s be honest, most people who attempt this die. That’s how the king keeps his immortality. I don’t know that I’d be prepared to risk my soul for a wish from a guy I’d never get tired of punching, but many do.
It is here that Selestra meets Nox, member of the Last Army and the favourite of the king. Selestra is ordered to make his prediction and everything goes horribly awry when she sees that his death is linked with her own. She steps in to sae him (and herself) from the death she saw, but in doing so betrays her mother and the king. It sets off a wild and dangerous adventure where Selestra and Nox become more and more entwined in each others lives. They hate each other from the outset, but if one dies, so does the other, so they have to keep each other safe, which is easier said than done with the scrapes they get themselves into.
I loved seeing their relationship grow as they continue to evade death. Their banter is excellent and made me cackle on many occasions. They need each other (her to evade the king’s wrath and him to survive the month and have a chance at destroying the king) so they have to learn to work together, which is more amusing than I expected it to be. There are a lot of twists in this book, exciting revelations, phenomenal characters with some home truths for Selestra, showdowns and shocks.
I can’t say much more without spoiling this book so let me just finish by saying, it is brilliant. Read it.
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