Soulbound: A Lone Star Witch Novel
The hardest part of this review was keeping it from getting too long. I have so many thoughts about Soulbound that I could go on for pages. The story had me turning pages like crazy, determined to figure out the mysteries of the heroine’s magical abilities and her connection to the hero, and the answers left me both thrilled and frustrated.
Great things were expected from Xandra Morgan, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, born into the powerful Ipswitch Royal Family (Ipswitch, Texas, not Massachusetts as one might expect given the witches angle). With magic running through her veins, she’s destined to be one of the most powerful witches in her coven, maybe even the entire world. But no matter how hard she studies the spell books or how much her mother refuses to accept the obvious, Xandra doesn’t seem to have a magical bone in her body.
The only thing magical that’s ever happened to Xandra is the encounter she shares with powerful warlock Declan Chumomisto on the night of her magical coming out party, an epic fail given her inability to do any actual magic. After a few shared kisses and night of soul-baring conversation, Declan just disappears, leaving Xandra heartbroken.
Eight years later, Xandra lives in Austin and owns a successful coffee shop of the strictly non-magical variety. The night she agrees to a double date her roommate has arranged, Xandra’s life changes forever. She discovers that Declan Chumomisto is in Austin, performing his sold-out show of illusions, and the impact of seeing him again blindsides Xandra, causing what she believes to be a physical illness.
In actuality, Xandra’s magical potential has finally come into play but in a way too horrific for Xandra to have ever imagined. Her magic manifests as a compulsion that physically leads her to the dead and mutilated bodies of women who look a lot like Xandra and have her magical mark imprinted on their skin. Not only does she suffer the emotional distress of finding the victims of a serial killer, Xandra experiences their terror and suffering as psychic echoes of the torture and rape they endured. Even their bruises and cuts appear on her body, as if she actually lived through the horrific attacks.
Xandra struggles to understand and control her strange new abilities. She suspects that Declan is somehow involved, but what his connection to her – and to the dead women – is, she cannot begin to guess. Even as the evidence begins to indicate that Declan may be the man the police are looking for, and that Xandra herself might become his next victim, Xandra can’t resist the pull Declan seems to have over her.
As a first-person narrator, Xandra is a heroine worthy of the title. Independent and determined to help herself, Xandra doesn’t see her lack of magical ability as any kind of disability and thus refuses to wallow in self-pity. Occasionally, I found her reactions to certain characters to be a bit bi-polar, understanding and cooperative in one minute then angry and snapping the next. But her backbone and straight-forward style appealed to me.
As far as Declan Chumomisto, there’s the mysterious hero who hides many layers about himself, and then there’s the hero who is mysterious because we never see him. Unfortunately, it’s the latter that applies to Declan who exists primarily in Xandra’s memory for nearly half of the book. He’s protective and confident and darkly compelling, but other than these somewhat stereotypical traits, Declan remains an enigma.
In Adams’ world, witches, wizards and warlocks live amongst normal humans, their magical abilities kept secret based on coven rules. At one point, there is a brief discussion about other magical entities, shifters and fey and the like, and I winced. My ability to buy into a paranormal premise lies in how seamlessly other-beings are integrated into the world I know, and Adams accomplished this magnificently. Throwing in every-magical-creature-but-the-kitchen-sink seriously damages my ability to suspend disbelief, so I hope Adams sticks with witches in any future books.
While this book has all of the components to be a solid A read for me, one major problem knocked it off that particular shelf. The way the relationship between Xandra and Declan developed often had me thinking I must have missed some key passage, wondering if I should go back and reread to clear up my confusion. The answers come so late in the story I felt a great opportunity had been lost.
Xandra’s intense feelings for Declan, including abandonment, heartbreak, and fury, are based on a single, fairly tame encounter that we as readers experience only via Xandra’s memories. Maybe if that one night had been fully described or had involved something more than kisses and talk I’d understand Xandra’s sense of betrayal by a man she hardly knows.
It’s not until the last quarter of the book that the relationship between Xandra and Declan really ramps up and a lot of my questions were answered. The reason for their extreme connection is hugely compelling, and once it was introduced, I wished that far more of the story had been devoted to exploring their unique situation because their chemistry is genuine.
Despite this lopsided treatment of the romance, pacing wasn’t a problem for me. The set up of Xandra’s current situation was interesting and the structure of the magical world explained in small but consistent doses. While I appreciated the lack of info-dumps, I did wonder at times if all would eventually be explained or revealed. I hesitate to list the areas that still leave me baffled because I don’t want to reveal too much.
The danger to Xandra escalates believably with each body she finds. I figured out who the killer was around the two-thirds mark, but this person’s motivation turned out to go deeper than simple psychopathy, leaving more danger for Declan and Xandra to face. A warning to those for which rape is a trigger: While not graphically described, there are multiple rapes in this book, and Xandra basically endures every attack given her magical connection to the victims.
This book could have used a second pass through editing. The scenes during which Xandra is compelled to find the bodies go on far too long, page after page given to the routes she takes and the sensations she’s experiencing, and then to her reactions afterwards. This tended to drag intense action and suspense to a crawl. Too, someone needs to explain to Adams the real meaning of literally, as it is impossible for cookies to literally fly out the door or for the world to literally stop, both phrases that caused me to roll my eyes in pedantic exasperation.
It appears Soulbound is the first title of a series. Indeed, while the central mystery is solved, the ending is left wide open for sequels. I am compelled to find out what happens to Xandra and Declan and look forward to the next entry in the Lone Star Witch saga.