Review: Stephen Merlino – The Jack of Souls

The Jack of Souls
Stephen Merlino
Trickster Harric has a curse he needs to break, set by his loving mother. Caris longs to be a knight, but is hindered by her horse-sense. Willard carries an ambassador and gift towards the Queen. As their lives intertwine through a series of accidents, each must fight for what they want.
The blurb on the back of the book suggests a lot more action than what actually occurs in the novel. To me, it felt like the action dragged, and I hardly brought myself to finish the last chapter. I didn’t spend very much time thinking about the novel while I wasn’t reading.
I didn’t really realize or like Willard as a character.  He felt like a ‘classic’ downtrodden knight. He was a grumpy, irritable old man who didn’t deserve any kind of sympathy or care. Or maybe that was the point? None of the characters really made me worry for their welfare. Except perhaps Kogan, who provided some light hearted relief to the storyline.
I did like the way that Harric and Caris’ relationship developed, and the factors influencing that. One wonders what will happen in the next novel. Will they remove the rings? Will Caris still want to kill Harric?
I felt conflicted about Harric’s story and his mother. Yes, she’s doomed him, but I also don’t understand why the magic he is fighting with is so horrible. In this way, the author positions the reader to feel the same way about magic as the general populace. It’s frustrating and confusing though! The same way that Harric must feel…
Sadly, I wouldn’t call this an ‘Epic Fantasy’ novel. A fantasy novel yes, but it’s not nearly long enough to be considered epic in my book. I didn’t feel like the story had enough content in it to make the book the length it was, and I would have coped with it being condensed down into a snappy narrative.
Fascinating! I discovered when I googled for the cover art to put here, that this book was funded by a KickStarter. I didn’t know that that was even a ‘thing’ for authors. I’ll have to keep an eye out for novels on there.
I wouldn’t consider this novel an outstanding example of its kind. If you see a copy at the library, or perhaps an ebook of it, then it could be for you. For me, I wanted more action and less character repeats. It is possible that the next two books in the trilogy will prove me wrong, and make reading this first one worthwhile. 3 stars from me.

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