Published: 2nd July 2012 by Penguin
Format: Paperback, 400 pages
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Sometimes you need to break all the rules to follow your heart ...
Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the Graplar King. Sixteen year old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learnt to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret.
Enter two young men: One charming, rule following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her to fight, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.
The cover of Soulbound grabbed me when I saw it at the store – isn’t it gorgeous? I was pleasantly surprised to find that the what’s inside lived up to my expectations – Soulbound is a great adventure featuring a wonderful heroine and a tight plot line.
The protagonist, Kaya, is absolutely awesome. A lot of the heroines I read either lack motivation or make decisions for stupid, selfish reasons. Kaya is motivated by the death of her best friend – she wants to be able to defend herself in case she is ever in the same position. Having been brought up outside of the world of Barrons and Healers, Kaya questions their archaic rules and Protocol while her classmates are happy to follow them blindly, even though some of the rules the Council has made don’t make sense. Kaya stands up to all the injustices that are ingrained in this new world and I connected with her because she isn’t irrational, and even when she makes bad decision, I could follow her way of thinking.
I think the world building could have been stronger, especially in the sense that the world doesn’t seem that big. Characters only have to walk for a day to reach the mysterious Outer Rim, which I envisioned as a huge wall or something that kept out enemy forces. The history of the world is interesting and well told, but since there are large gaps in Kaya’s understanding, there are also large gaps in the reader’s appreciation of it. In particular, I think the reasons for why the war is taking place at all should have been delved into, it just seems to abstract at the moment.
The world Kaya has fallen into has all these rules, that all the people born into it just accept, but from an outsider’s view most of them are ridiculous and endanger the society rather than protect them. The rules inhibiting Healers from learning to fight are ridiculous – considering that there is a war going on, doesn’t it make more sense to train every available body in combat so that there are more people fighting out there? But nope, Healers aren’t allowed to learn to fight, and Kaya, rightly questioning this stupid practise, trains in secret. She also has a hard time accepting that Healers are definitely second class citizens in this world, and isn’t afraid to question almost everything she is told. This leads to a lot of time spent in detention!
Both Trayton, the Barron Kaya is Bound to, and Darius, the Unskilled (normal, non-magical human) drill instructor, are gorgeous male characters who develop special relationships with Kaya. Trayton and Kaya try hard to like one another since about half of Bound couples end up in romantic relationships, however, for the most part their interactions seem forced. It gradually becomes more obvious that Trayton feels more for Kaya. Darius, on the other hand, is rude to Kaya on the rare occasions when he isn’t ignoring her. I loved that Kaya isn’t drawn to him, nor does she take his bad behaviour as an invitation to dig deeper. Kaya leaves him alone and wants nothing to do with him but at the same time Darius is the best teacher and she wants to learn defence, so she isn’t left with a lot of options. The story doesn’t feature a love-triangle, per say, and as usual, this bumped up my esteem for it.
Soulbound ends on a killer cliffhanger – I need the sequel Soulbroken, due for release in August 2013. I highly recommend this stellar example of quality YA Fantasy – I think everyone will enjoy a kick-butt female protagonist (who fights with a katana!) and intriguing story.