The Keepers #1
Orbit Books; March 19, 2019
4.3 / 5 ✪
Soulkeeper was my 9th Dalglish book, and honestly one of the better ones. I’m generally a fan of him—I mean, a lot of his books were good, yet few were solid, 5-star reads (mostly 3.5 – 4). Soulkeeper begins the Keepers’ series, one that feels a combination of new age and classic, with but a hint of dark fantasy. The Shadowdance series was definitely more in the vein of dark fantasy, though not enough that I’d call it grimdark. Soulkeeper is more what I’d call a realistic take on classic fantasy (there’s too much swearing and blood).
Devin Eveson is a Soulkeeper, a practitioner of the Sisters, the three goddesses of mankind. He, like the others, travels from the capital Londheim, to remote towns and villages, to conduct funerary rituals, heal and comfort the sick and dying, and usher souls into the afterlife. But upon visiting the mountain village of Dunwerth, something changes. For he is not only confronted by a mysterious plague that proves well beyond his ability to heal, but waking monsters that are all but beyond his ability to combat. To compound this, a powerful and generally pissed-off dragon has awakened, releasing a torrent of foul, black water that destroys everything in its path. In its wake, Devin is stranded in a barren and alien land, haunted by new and ancient terrors that he must fight his way through in order to make it back to the capital, if it indeed survives. Along the way, Devin gains a few friends and allies—Tomas, his brother-in-law and friend; CRKSSLFF (or Puffy), a firekin and remnant of a world long forgotten—en route to Londheim, though trailing in his wake is something much older, a mountain of stone that walks upon the earth like a crab.
Following Devin’s arrival at Londheim, quite a few more characters are introduced, including—Adria, Devin’s sister and a Mindkeeper (which is kinda like a nun or something; they care for the faithful and needy but don’t make speeches or hobnob with the rich and powerful); Janus, a supernatural being that butchers humans, turning them into his “art”; Tesmarie, a faerie; Jacaranda, a soulless slave that becomes something different entirely. All of these (plus a few more) got POV chapters, most of which I enjoyed. Despite the size of the cast, I never felt the story slow to try to fit them in. Instead one often took over where another left off, something that actually seemed to work well in this case. Sometimes, in fantasy, there are so many threads and story arcs going on that an approach like this won’t fly, and instead might completely wreck the pacing, particularly if some of the characters are uninteresting or slow. I never found this problem, however; the pacing was good, and I never found myself bogged down by a character arc I found uninteresting.
I quite liked the world-building of Soulkeeper; from the world itself, to the characters, to the creation myth and the church and the Awakened. Everything was well done, though I would like to see a bit more lore in the second installment. The dialogue was really the main aspect that bothered me. Ofttimes I felt it campy, or even lame, though this wasn’t altogether unexpected. Dalglish—which I know from his previous books—is a bit like Michael J. Sullivan with his speech and dialogue. By which I mean he favors a normal, or modern, approach, instead of trying to replicate the speech of the time period (like JRR or Miles Cameron) or make up something of his own (á la Sanderson and Robert Jordan and others). Most of the time this is fine, yet at others it can feel… off, or even ridiculous.
Soulkeeper is a fun, entertaining start of a new series, with lovely world-building and an interesting story that kept me intrigued throughout. I would’ve liked to see a bit more lore for the Awakened, the monsters and such, instead of quite so much of the same about the Goddesses. In addition, a little more polish on the dialogue wouldn’t hurt. Otherwise, I really have no complaints—and eagerly await the next one!
The series will continue with Ravencaller, which as of yet has no release date.