Beware the Gramplars: SOULBOUND by Heather Brewer

Posted 22 June, 2012 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 15 Comments

YA Fantasy
304 pages, hardcover
Available now (June 2012)
Publisher: Dial
Review copy purchased
What’s worse than being blackmailed to attend a hidden school where you’re treated like a second-class citizen? How about nearly getting eaten by a monster when you arrive? Or learning that your soulmate was killed in a centuries-old secret war? And then there’s the evil king who’s determined to rule the world unless you can stop him…

Meet Kaya, a young woman with the power to heal and the determination to fight. But struggle as she will, she remains tied to three very different men: a hero who has forsaken glory, a tyrannical ruler who wants to use Kaya, and a warrior who’s stolen her heart. Kaya learns the hard way that some ties can’t be broken…and blood is the strongest bond of all.

While I enjoyed this book, I was left with a hella amount of questions about, well, everything. We’re thrown into a world where not enough is explained. The majority of fantasy and urban fantasy novels I’ve read (and, trust me, that’s a library’s worth of reading there) have serious worldbuilding throughout the story so the reader knows what’s going on, where it’s happening, and why. But in SOULBOUND, I felt adrift much of the time, trapped in a walled and guarded boarding school with no real in-depth vision of the world or its rules. 

Don’t get me wrong–I think this series has some seriously awesome potential, and I’ll definitely be reading the next one. Still, that next story really needs to expand my awareness of the land of Tril. I had waaaaay too many questions like: Why don’t the Unskilled know about the Skilled? How can the Unskilled *not* know about the Skilled, what with the century-long war and army of Barrons and Gramplars going at it like fiends? Why can’t Barrons marry Barrons? Why aren’t the Healers trained in self-defense, since they’re on the battlefield with their Barrons? Why aren’t all Barrons trained? Who came up with the strict Protocols everyone Skilled has to follow and why? Why do the Barrons look down on Healers, when the Healers are the ones who heal their ungrateful butts? How did King Derrek, the king attacking Tril, become King of the Gramplars? Why are there weird names for beasts (Gramplars, Raiks and Khaws) but the sword the Barrons use is a katana? Where’s my map (I couldn’t get a read on how big this country was, where things were located in relation to one another, where King Derrek and his Gramplars come from)? *sigh* Lots of questions. Yes, I know many will be answered in subsequent books but, in my eyes, the worldbuilding was lacking in this first story.

However, the main character, Kaya, was kick-ass. Forced to attend the Shadow Academy under threat to her parents’ lives, Kaya tries to understand her new world and all its wacky rules. But she’s not the kind of gal to sit idly by while her Barron does all the heavy lifting. She want to learn how to defend herself, to take care of herself, despite this being against the rules and despite her Barron partner promising he’d always be there to take care of her. I appreciated that she wasn’t willing to play the role of the helpless Healer, waiting on the sidelines. She bucks the system. She kicks ass with her katana. Watch out, Gramplars! Here she comes!

Overall, while this story needed some serious worldbuilding to make the land of Tril clearer, there’s enough of an intriguing plotline and interesting characters to make it a book–and series–worth delving into.

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15 Responses to “Beware the Gramplars: SOULBOUND by Heather Brewer”

  1. Boo, lack of world building is kind of a big thing. It’s too bad more questions about the general world weren’t answered. I’ve heard good things about this book, and the main character sounds super good, but I think I’ll put this one to the back of my TBR list.

  2. Oh, I hate that- when you’r thrown into a world and you don’t get the basic rules quickly, I don’t mind mystery in a story, but I don’t like feeling lost.

    I do agree that it sounds like the story has some serious potential! And Kaya sounds kick ass.

  3. Love Kick Ass Characters!! just love them. But .. I see that you are not completely sold and I hate being confused 🙂 I het that there a thing to be left open and unanswered so that readers are excited enough to read the sequel, yet there is a fine line between just enough and too much left open…

  4. Oof this sounds like it could really be great if the world building was more thorough. But maybe it will all be clarified in the sequel and the characters def. sound awesome!! Great review!

  5. This sounds really good but the lack of worldbuilding concerns me. I think I might want to wait until the next one’s out and then hopefully it tells us more. I don’t know though,it seriously sounds awesome on all other aspects.

  6. See, world building is one of the most important things to me when I read a book, so the weak world building seems disappointing. However, I am always willing to make an exception for kickass characters. I will have to see if my library has Soulbound I guess.