I love reading, and as a writer I like to broaden my scope by reading outside of my comfort zone, so that I can learn more about my craft.
Book – Guardian of Souls
Author – Lee Appleby
Star rating - ★★★★☆
Plot – intriguing, in depth,
Characters – relateable, mysterious, diverse
Movie Potential - ★★★★☆
Ease of reading – slightly difficult to read
Cover – YES Suitable Title - YES
Would I read it again – Possibly
**I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
This book wasn't at all what I was expecting. I saw the cover, read the blurb and assumed this was a YA/Fantasy style novel, for teens and younger. I was wrong and that's not a bad thing.
This is actually a NA novel, due to the language and sex. But, saying that, the sex is not detailed. It's fade to grey and that means it only makes a small impact on the story. I do, however, think that since it's fade to grey and only mentioned in passing, never described, that there is far too many sex-encounters in the story, especially later in the book. But that's just personal preference.
For me, this book was a story of three parts:
1-20% = Discovering the characters and the problems
This part lay the foundation for the story, introducing us to all the main characters, letting us know what the big mystery was and keeping Leone (our MC) in the dark. This was where all the intrigue and mystery began.
20-60% = Frustrating search for answers
This is when Leone began to form his own opinions, make his own choices and really delve deep for the truth. He doesn't find it until part three, but the search never stagnates or becomes boring. There's always something going on, something new to learn and some new mystery that is hinted at.
60-100% = Finding those answers and even more questions.
This part is the best, to be honest. Where everything comes together, where Leone finds his true path and follows his heart and mind, where he connects most to Luan and really explores the possibilities of who he is. It's also where we get answers and even more questions that will take us into a second book.
I'll admit that the first third of the book wasn't that interesting for me. I can't say why, except to blame it on Amy. But, before we go into that, let's have a run down of the characters:
Luan/Leone: Leone is the human boy, nearly thirty (I think) with no direction in life. Luan is the Xehgin, a magical soldier from his past life, who has all the secrets that Leone needs, throughout the story.
Amy: Amy is a mystery through most of the book. I can't tell you too much about her, without giving the story away. But let's just say that I didn't like her and it was really no fault of her own. We just didn't connect.
Samael: Portrayed as evil throughout most of the book and does a lot of very bad things, in the name of “the greater good”. So he claims.
“The Team”: Comprising of Bahu, Kate, Michael, Kyla and a few others whose names I can't remember. These are the questionable good guys, who have a firm belief in their task and do all they can, not to kill anyone.
The story begins with Luan, battling a monster with a team of people. All very steampunk-ish for a while, mysterious and intriguing. It was a really good start and I was really interested in finding out more about Luan.
Then, we discover Luan is a memory/dream and our real MC, Leone, is waking up in hospital, from a coma. I was even more intrigued, to find out how these two were linked, if Luan was real or if something weird was going on.
We find out that Leone is in hospital, because he saved a girl, Amy, from an attack by a group of men. Yet, frustratingly, the minute Leone leaves the hospital to seek out Amy, in hopes of finding answers to why he's in a coma and what happened, she flirted with him, really strongly. I don't see any girl, after being attacked by 4 men, two weeks ago, acting so flirtatiously with a stranger – hero or not.
Despite how I feel about it, they two begin a relationship. Personally, I didn't see any chemistry between Amy and Leone, when they first met or even after they began their “affair”. And, I'm sorry, that's what I'm calling it. Both characters claim they're in love, at one point or another in the story, but I don't see it. I find the whole idea a little weird.
Here, Amy introduces Leone to her father Samael, who thanks him for saving his daughter and asks him to become her bodyguard, while she travels the world.
And here I think the story could have done without this entire part. I get that Amy is the catalyst to Leone rediscovering his memories of Luan's life, but I really don't see the importance of Amy that is stressed, regularly.
I could easily see Leone rescuing some unknown girl, going into a coma, getting his memories back and then going on the run after he's attacked or followed. That would have been shorter, simpler and made more sense than the entire Amy storyline that really didn't make any sense to me.
Anyway…on their travels, Leone is approached by Michael, and his team, who believe they're on the side of good and want Leone to go with them. But Leone is so wrapped around Amy's finger that he won't go and they then go on the run for about a chapter. Only to get caught between Samael and Michael's team. By this time, Amy has admitted a few things and explained enough about Leone's “dreams” to let him know that the dreams are memories and he should trust them. So he decides to go with Michael's team, in search of answers.
It all seems like a long way for a shortcut.
I got a really bad vibe from Amy the minute she came into the story and constantly begged Leone not to think with his hormones, but he did. I also thought they jumped into bed really quickly and she seemed very manipulative.
At this third of the book, I also preferred Luan to Leone. Leone seemed reckless and stupid to trust Amy so explicitly, without ever questioning her motives. Luan, on the other hand, was a really strong person and I always felt good and comfortable in his memories.
I get that this was all new to Leone, that it was a shock, but he sensed it was real so often, yet he still refused to connect the dots. When his memories seemed more real than the life he was living, you would think he'd want to investigate further, to find out more. Instead, he trusts Amy even after the big revelation and her manipulating him. It doesn't make any sense, to me.
Once the first 20% was over, I started enjoying the journey so much more. Until this point, it was the mystery that kept me reading. From here on out, I was unable to put it down. I was as immersed in finding answers as Leone was.
This is also the point where Leone begins to remember more and explores the two sides of the same story that confuse him so much, I see the strong Luan influence coming back in. He learns to trust himself over anyone else and questions everything.
I'm not going to go into detail here, about what happens in the book, because there's not much I can say without giving it away. There are secrets around every corner, no one is who they say they are and with every secret revealed, there are more questions to be found.
Needless to say, from 20% on, I love Leone more and more and I can separate him from Luan a little more. Yes, they blend into one at times and often work as one person in the same body, but there are times when we see the Leone he could be, glimpsing through.
There are a lot of different POV. Mostly, this is done in the omnipresent form, where you get glimpses into everyone's head, when it's relevant. This works really well for this one, but there are times when it's not needed, because a look or an action confirms what we're then told in the omni POV.
Also, there is a really big problem in the writing and it's one that I can over look, but it does interrupt the flow of the story somewhat – there are editing issue. The spelling/grammar etc are fine, but there are places where I can see the author has edited this book and rephrased sentences. I know this, because one word is left over or missing from the sentence. It's always something small, just one word left over from how it used to be written, or one word missing, from over-editing.
It needs mentioned, because it happens a lot throughout the book, but on the other side, I can see past this and appreciate the wider story arc and the mystery/suspense of the novel as a whole. I also appreciate the time and attention the author has put into editing this so often, because these small issues show that the author has really paid attention to the story and the editing. It might just have been one edit too short or one edit too many.
This book is big. I mean, my kindle tells me it's 478 pages and 9186 loc, so this thing is huge, but I don't mind. It fitted in everything it needed, to make the story work. I would have liked to miss out the entire Amy part of the story, which would have drastically lowered that number, but I do understand that my dislike of her is subjective. I really can't stand her, but others might love her and the fact that I don't like her is a bonus. The only time a character is truly useless is when a reader feels nothing for them – no love, no hate, no nothing – and I really dislike Amy, so I was made to feel for her character, whether I wanted to or not.
I will read a book of any length – short story, novella, novel – it doesn't matter. This one needed to be so long, because it had so much detail and story progression. The author did a great job of finishing this part of the story, while leaving room for more later.
I will definitely be on the look out for the next book. I can't wait to find out more about Leone/Luan's journey and I'm sure there's another character deep inside him that we'll get to know better, in book 2. Leone has been left with room to grow, bonds still to be forged and memories that coincide with how his life has ended at the end of this book.
A job well done to Lee Appleby. I'll be first in line for book two.