RENTED SOULS by Eirik Moe Dahll-Larssøn takes place in a world very much like our own, except that magic exists and monsters are real. Humanity’s best and last line of defense is Unknown Counterintelligence Agency, fighting the good fight using any means available. This is a premise familiar to scifi/horror fans from countless movies, comic books, and TV shows. What makes RENTED SOULS stand out though is its sense of humor.
Most of the humor comes from the sarcastic narration by the story’s protagonist (code name: Dwarf) who yearns to escape his depressing, lonely life by becoming a UCIA agent. After a disastrous encounter with a renegade demon, Dwarf gets his wish but loses his soul – literally, since neither humans nor demons can’t seem to find it. To Dwarf’s horror (and reader’s amusement), UCIA seems to be pretty bad at its job as the monsters keep breaking in and out of Agency’s headquarters.
The joy of RENTED SOULS comes from the way it embraces the silliness of its premise. Dwarf is cursed with quite possibly the worst super power ever. Monsters are often deliberately designated by the Agency with demeaning names. And then there’s agent Swayze, a bare-chested, axe-wielding agent sprouting a magnificent mullet. Dahll-Larssøn pulls off a neat trick here: by presenting his protagonists as eccentric, he makes them feel more human. Then, when things start going terrifyingly, spectacularly wrong, the reader suddenly finds himself invested in the fate of these characters.
By far the biggest disappointment in this otherwise fun read is the sheer number of questions it leaves unanswered. The reader never learns what really motivates agents such as Book, King, and Dove to willingly risk their lives and sanity by fighting supernatural evil. There’s plenty of unanswered mysteries as well. Who or what is Swayze? Can Dwarf reclaim his soul? While it’s perfectly understandable that Dahll-Larssøn wants to leave something for the possible sequel, all of these dangling questions make RENTED SOULS feel like a pilot episode of a TV show that might never get picked up by the network.
All in all, RENTED SOULS tells an entertaining story featuring cool monsters and likable heroes. Hopefully, we’ll get that sequel one day!
~Danijel Štriga for IndieReader