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Princess of Souls by Alexandra Christo


Darkness. Death. Black magic. A puppet to a powerful king. That’s the life that awaits Selestra Somniatis. To become the king’s witch is to become his sharpest weapon and his most carefully guarded treasure. To serve King Seryth is her fate, just as it has been her mother’s, just as it was her grandmother’s, and her great-grandmother’s. Being bound by a blood oath to an undying king isn’t a destiny that’s easy to escape from. The night of the Red Moon is the night that the king’s power becomes strongest, the night that he consumes one hundred souls to extend his immortality. Feeding the king those souls is the most important job of a Somniatis witch.


Selestra has the green hair and the yellow eyes that mark her as the heir to the Somniatis bloodline. She was raised in the king’s castle with only her increasingly distant mother and her best friend, the dressmaker’s apprentice, for company. But the thought of the deaths that she will have to foretell and facilitate terrifies her. What other choice does she have? Her dreams can only escape in her paintings, which have to be burnt before the king sees them. She might be locked in a tower, but she’s well aware that she’s no princess.


Cue the entrance of Nox, the dissatisfied soldier in King Seryth’s army who, for reasons of his own, has plans to overthrow the king, starting with killing Selestra. His plan falls awry as Selestra is called on to foretell his death, their paths become intertwined.


This novel for young adults has all of the hallmarks of satisfying fantasy, adventure, and romance: the misunderstood and conflicted protagonists, their steadfast best friends, the search for destiny, a great evil, betrayal, irresistible attraction, and love. Still, the twists and turns it takes are lively and engrossing rather than old and stale. Fans who have enjoyed Christo’s other novels for their edginess will find her dark delights amplified in Princess of Souls. While it doesn’t get too uncomfortably dark, its pages are littered with corpses, thrones made of bones, moving skeletons, and eerie streets of empty houses to mourn souls that – as fodder for the king’s longevity – will never find their way to the afterlife. First and foremost, the book is about Selestra’s search for herself. While her journey at Nox’s side takes her farther from her lonely tower than she’d ever imagined, it’s inside herself that she finds the light that she’s been longing for. She’s no princess, it’s true … but perhaps she might be a queen? Meanwhile, Nox, who narrates a number of the chapters, finds that the revenge for his father’s death that he’s always wanted might not be the only thing that he wants.


Highly recommended, especially for those in their mid to late teens. If you’re searching for a book to get lost in whilst you drink in the rays of the summer sun, this might be your opportunity to dip into the shadows and experience a cold – and enjoyable – chill down your spine.


Susannah Whaley

Allen & Unwin


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