When I read paranormals these days, I’m looking for good worldbuilding. I’ve read too many books where the paranormal side of things feels completely unbelievable or where everything reads like a typical contemporary save only for the occasional mention of the hero’s fangs (and it is usually the hero, isn’t it?) In Soul Sucker, we not only get a good romance, but the author creates a world that had an internal logic to it and which drew me in pretty quickly.
Speaking of worlds, it’s hard to understand the plot of this novel until you understand its world. The characters in this story inhabit a realm where the land of Faerie is real and sometimes its inhabitants really do come into our world and cause problems. Some folks are human, some are Fae, and some are a blend of the two. The heroine, Ella Walsh, is an empath, someone gifted with the ability enter another’s mind and take away parts of another’s memory as well as being able to interact with supernatural creatures. There is a downside, though. Whenever Ella intervenes in a situation, she not only helps someone else but she ends of taking on the psychic trauma and memories of all those someones she’s helped. We see it causing her headaches and we learn that most empaths around age 27 tend to break down completely.
And that’s where our romance comes in. As it turns out, the governing body that monitors Ella and her colleagues has a matchmaking program that pairs empaths with volunteers who are part-Fae.These part-Fae mates are able to provide balance to the empaths and so keep them from breakdown. Ella didn’t particularly like the idea of being paired up with whomever the bureaucrats chose for her, so even though her 27th birthday approaches, she’s been ignoring her notices. But romantic entanglements might just might find their way to her anyway.
As it happens, Ella also has a big case taking up her time.Someone has been killing empaths – and wiping their minds completely. As an empath working for the Supernatural Branch of Law Enforcement(SBLE), Ella must work on this case and it’s a tough one since all of these victims have something very much in common with her. When shapeshifting SBLE agent Vadim Morosov is brought into the case, Ella is less than thrilled because she finds him arrogant. Vadim, for his part, is reluctant to work with Ella because he got burned pretty badly working on a case with an empath who had a meltdown and almost took the team with her.
In some ways, this book works as romantic suspense because parts of it truly are a police procedural of sorts. What really makes it stand out, though, are the development of the relationship and the very natural way in which Pearce inserts elements of the paranormal world into her narrative. Ella and Vadim treat supernatural occurrences as part of normal daily life, and that made their world feel more believable to this reader. And then there’s the romance. We see Ella and Vadim moving past their initial negative assessments of one another, developing a healthy respect for each other’s talents and so on. Eventually a deeper link starts building in ways that feel natural most of the time.
The author’s writing flowed well for me stylistically, and I enjoyed getting sucked into the SBLE investigation. There were a few hiccups in the flow of the plot – one including a pretty pivotal love scene between Ella and Vadim – but otherwise the story has an engaging quality about it. Even if I did occasionally(very occasionally) roll my eyes, the mystery and the world of Soul Sucker hooked me, and I didn’t want to put down my reader!