REVIEW: Soul Song by Marjorie Liu
Dear Ms. Liu:
I had never read you before and as the Dirk and Steele series became longer, I became more intimidated by the idea that I would have to read 3 or 4 or even 5 books to catch up. When I was sent Soul Song as part of Dorchester’s Buzz Campaign, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try. After all, the book was free, and if I didn’t like it, I could always set it aside without having wasted any money and very little effort. I was intrigued from the very beginning when the protagonist is forced to steal the soul of a woman against his will.
Kitala Bell is a world class violinist. Her concerts are sold out everywhere because her music has a way of striking to the heart of the listener, evoking emotional responses. Kitala is obviously no ordinary musician and her skill with the violin is not her only otherworld quality. Kitala is cursed with seeing visions of people’s deaths, usually violent ones. Most days she attempts to ignore these visions but one day she sees a woman with death stamped on her face and intercedes, thus setting off a chain of events that could lead to Kitala’s own death.
M’cal made a mistake as a young man and has been paying for it ever since. M’cal is a Krakeni, a type of merman who can bind people with his voice. When his mother died, M’cal determined that he would seek out the world of man, the world of his mother. He was young and foolish and allowed himself to be seduced by a witch who bound him to her. Through her sorcery, M’cal is forced take the souls of people to feed her. If he does not, he is felled with excruciating pain; pain so great that he longs for death but as one who is immortal cannot die. In the beginning, he would fight but as time wore on, he became more resigned to his position as her lackey growing to hate himself and his existence more each day.
He is sent to steal Kitala’s soul but upon hearing her music he cannot. Together, M’Cal and Kitala must find a way to break the bond between M’cal and his master.
Kitala and M’cal are the protagonists of this story but their future is shaped, in large part, by those who have come before them and who have made great sacrifices to keep them safe. Each character in this book is connected both backward and forward to some kind of destiny, even the villianness. The theming of sacrifice and reward made the love story bittersweet. M’cal and Kitala each find peace for themselves and with one another but it comes with a cost.
The weakness in the story was the pacing which was uneven and slow at times. I felt that some of the story was told with too much of a shroud making some of the plot points confusing. While I didn’t think that the characters from other books were overly intrusive, I didn’t find them integral to the plot either so I wondered if their appearance was gratitous.
I should add one word of caution and that is this book does have some violent scenes, but I can't say it bothered me. The balance of emotions made this a strong story which lingered with me after I closed the book and it made me interested in reading the previous five stories in the Dirk and Steele series. B