Nythan Dweinz is almost ready to leave for college. He’s headed for the University of Central Florida to be trained as a cadet in the U.S. Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. His optimism and anticipation for the future is cut short when he catches a home intruder mid-robbery and is stabbed in the chest. But, before finishing him off, the attacker releases a mysterious silver gas and suddenly dies. Having inhaled the gas, Nythan survived what should have been a fatal injury, but now finds a demon in his head.
Shane Boulware’s SOULSTEALER gets off to a quick start, with the above events all occurring within the first two chapters. The fast pacing is constant throughout the story and the plot carries the characters between several locales, including New England, Florida, the Himalayas, and China. The glue that keeps the reader grounded amidst the onslaught of new locations, people, and terminology is Nythan himself. He serves as an effective audience surrogate and fish-out-of-water as he attempts to figure out the motives behind the insistent and malicious demon he plays host to. The back and forth between Nythan and the demon is the definite highlight of the novel. Their conversations range from amusing to philosophical as the demon tempts Nythan to find souls to eat. Nythan himself is quite relatable and even endearing at times, his appropriate befuddlement towards the cryptic events around him injecting humor now and then.
However, SOULSTEALER’s prose is in need of polish and leaves some aspects of its story and characters under-explored. Sentences don’t read as smoothly as they could, with redundant use of pronouns, injections of stark exposition, and often a cadence of being rushed along. But it is not only the writing itself that contributes to this feeling. The chapters are all very short, with most spanning only a few pages. In the end, this adds up to 85 chapters in a book that is under 400 pages. Often times, this creates a sense of under exploration and several chapters could have been expanded upon or merged through scene transitions. There is also an over reliance on italicized internal thoughts which leaves a lack of physicality within the prose. Nythan, while a likable protagonist, does sometimes take to the changes in his life a little too easily, though this issue is mostly apparent in the beginning of the novel.
Fun and fast-paced, SOULSTEALER is a great mix of urban fantasy, fantastical mythos and real world framing.
~Yi Zou for IndieReader