Release Date: February 5, 2024
Publisher: Avocado Tree Press
Available at Amazon as an eBook & Kindle Unlimited, Paperback & Hardback
Available at Barnes & Noble as a Paperback & Hardback
My Star Rating: 4 stars ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Most of us spend our years dying.
Not Safran. She lives.
From the Marrow Street slums to the Prince's Palace, sixteen-year-old Safran is the best thief in Vitalia. She owes it all to two simple rules: 1. Live ferociously, and 2. Don't die. Following them keeps Safran and her little brother Curt fed, sheltered, and one step ahead of the brutal White Cap patrols.
After she pulls off a particularly dangerous pastry heist, a mysterious man in black offers Safran a chance to do the impossible: bring her parents back to life. All she has to do is steal the priceless Ghost Tablet from its carefully guarded vault in the Temple of the Soul.
Lured by the promise of protection for her brother, Safran agrees to infiltrate the Temple—only to find herself in the middle of a centuries-old supernatural conflict. Suspicious priests, dangerous trials, and electric puppy-lizard-monsters test the limits of Safran's rules and force her to answer devastating questions:
Who will she save? Who will she betray? And who is she willing to kill?
I have always aspired to be part of an exclusive group. I finally had my opportunity with Marrow and Soul by Addison Horner. A shout out was posted on Instagram, and I jumped at the chance to be an ARC (advanced reader copy) reader. It gives the volunteer a chance to read a book before it’s officially available to the public so reviews can be posted before, on, and after the availability date. This gives the book the best chance to get noticed by algorithms and boosted for better sales. It’s something I wished I’d done for my first publication. But enough about me...
The entry to the Vitalia Series, Marrow and Soul, is an exciting book with fantastic character representation, intrigue, found family, and sibling love. Oh, I can’t forget the pastries and a character lovingly referred to as Poof Pants. 😉
I’ll admit that it took me a little time to get into the story, but once I did, I had a couple of nights of going to bed too late because I didn’t want to put the book down. Safran, an orphan, is daring and willing to take risks in her thievery to keep her and her brother safe on the streets. As the main character (MC), she was the perfect amount of suspicious and cunning to keep me turning the page. I also loved the representation of Down Syndrome in the little brother. Curt is sweet and stubborn, and it made me smile every time he saw Safran. He always said, “Sister!” To me, that simple statement showed a tremendous amount of sibling affection, and it was so joyous.
While I did thoroughly enjoy the MC, my favorite character was Enneas, the head priest of the Temple of Soul. His calm and knowing demeanor is gravitating. If he were real, I could easily picture him with a twinkle in his eye. My favorite non-speaking character was the electric puppy-lizard. I’m a sucker for animals, so how could I not love the shockingly-blue-energetic-face-licking-tongue-hanging-out-bouncy-lizard? It reminded me of my dog when she was a puppy, and I wanted it to be in every scene. Alas, that would inevitably shift the story away from Safran and to the small creature.
The world of Vitalia is original and enough description was given by the author for me to clearly picture the city, both the good and the bad. The four temples are a dominating feature, and it becomes obvious how much power the different temples hold in the city when Safran joins the Temple of Soul. Sprinkled throughout the book are enough tense scenes that kept me guessing at what came next. Some of my favorite scenes in the book were the trials that Safran had to overcome while living in the Temple of Soul. What I liked the most about these trials is that they were unique, but still tested the attributes of the MC in classic ways so the reader could identify with and grow to love her.
Now on to the rough part and why I’m ultimately giving the book a four-star rating. Some things I did not like about the book were the lack of development in specific areas. As I neared the end of the book, the most jarring thing that pulled me out of the story world was the revelation about the MC. I found myself somewhat confused by it. The twist was not unreasonable, and I could absolutely believe it to be plausible because some signs existed, but for me these signs could have been developed more. I felt blinded as a reader to the situation instead of reading about the character’s blindness to the situation.
I also wanted more confrontation with the villain. The few interactions came to a boiling point by the end of the book and, after finishing, left me unsatisfied with the last battle. It’s possible that I missed something key written earlier in the story to make the antagonist more of an issue, but I do not believe I did. There are a few other things that I would have liked to be different, but those are down to personal preferences.
Overall, this is an outstanding book, and I recommend it!
This book is for:
Young Adults - best for ages 12-18.
Obviously, if you love young adult reads like me, then absolutely go for it, you won’t be disappointed.
Fans of fantasy, mystery, character relationships, and exciting twists.
Original story settings and a unique plot lines.
If this sounds like a read in your wheelhouse, pick it up today or add it to your TBR. If you liked this review, please let me know in the comments! Link to the book is at the top of the page.