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Book Review: Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo

Book Review: Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo

For sixteen years, Selestra Somniatis has been trapped in her tower on the Floating Mountain. As the heir to the King’s Witch, Selestra is destined to suffer a life of servitude to the merciless King Seryth, maintaining his power with her magic and foretelling deaths in the Festival of Predictions. Those predicted to die have the chance to outrun their fate, earning them a wish and the chance to steal the King’s immortality. Fail and your soul is forfeited. Thousands have tried to beat death and nobody has even come close to succeeding. That is until the reckless and charismatic Nox Laederic offers himself up as a candidate.

A soldier in the King’s legendary army, Nox is an unlikely contender for the Festival. Seemingly loyal to Seryth on the outside but seething with revenge on the inside, Nox is determined to destroy the King and his entire court, including Selestra. However, when Selestra predicts Nox’s death, their destinies become inexplicably entwined – as do their lives. Only by working together can the two survive long enough to change the hands of fate and escape the darkness that has consumed their world.

When I was young – before my mother became a stranger – she’d read me stories of princesses. Fairy tales of demure women, powerless, locked up in towers and waiting to be rescued by a handsome prince, who would whisk them away for love and adventure.

“I’m not a princess,” I say to Irenya.

I’m something far more deadly than that. And nobody is rescuing me from my tower.”

Very loosely inspired by the Rapunzel fairytale, Princess of Souls is every bit as fast-paced and adventure-fuelled as Christo’s debut fantasy To Kill A Kingdom, which was a ruthless reimagining of The Little Mermaid. It features all the elements that make Christo’s novels so absorbing and memorable: a brutal yet beautiful world overtaken by forces of evil and an intricate magic system, not to mention a collection of fierce and loveable characters hell-bent on fighting the good fight, even when it seems hopeless. It’s a classic good vs. evil tale, with vibrant descriptions, thrilling journeys across the skies and seas, and intense battles of both wills and magic.

Whilst there are plenty of intriguing peripheral characters, Princess of Souls really is a two-hander of a novel, its strength built on the brave and kind hearts of its two protagonists. The dual perspective narrative allows readers the chance to delve into both characters’ conflicted minds. We live every loss and heartache with them; we experience every hope and fear. Selestra and Nox have more in common than they realise at the start and the more time they spend together, the more their ideas and futures align. They might begin the novel trying to outrun their entangled fates, but they soon come to realise that sometimes the only way to change what’s predestined is to defiantly stop running and face your destiny head-on.

The joy of Christo’s writing is how quick-witted and engaging it is, with concise sentences and chapters that keep the action constantly moving. The book’s pithy approach ensures readers never become bored but you might find yourself wishing that certain scenes were drawn out a little more to really feel the emotion and weight of a particular moment. Allowing Selestra and Nox more time to exist as adversaries would have lent the enemies-to-lovers relationship between them a little more nuance. But it’s difficult to feel too short changed when they make such a disarming and formidable team.

Princess of Souls is set in the same universe as To Kill A Kingdom but the crossovers are fairly minimal, making both books perfect standalones. It means that original fans will find little nods to the world they previously fell in love with, whilst new readers can enjoy it without feeling as if they’ve missed out on something vital to the overarching story. Still, just knowing that Selestra and Nox exist in the same fantasy world as fan-favourites Lira and Elian is exciting in itself. What would happen if all four characters were thrown together in the same book? Perhaps one day we’ll have the enjoyment of finding out.


Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo was published by Hot Key Books on 11 October 2022

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