Author: Megan Bannen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: November 17th 2020 from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins)
Format: Physical ARC from author as part of blog tour
Goodreads Synopsis: A dark, epic fantasy about a girl who must reevaluate everything she believes after she is betrayed and hunted by the religion that raised her—from Megan Bannen, author of The Bird and the Blade. Perfect for fans of The Winner’s Curse and The Girl of Fire and Thorns.
Gelya is a Vessel, a girl who channels the word of the One True God through song. Cloistered with the other Vessels of her faith, she believes—as all Ovinists do—that a saint imprisoned Elath the Great Demon centuries ago, saving humanity from earthly temptation.
When Gelya stumbles into a deadly cover-up by the Ovinists’ military, she reluctantly teams up with Tavik, an enemy soldier, to survive. Tavik believes that Elath is actually a mother goddess who must be set free, but while he succeeds in opening Her prison, he inadvertently turns Gelya into Elath’s unwilling human vessel.
Now the church that raised Gelya considers her a threat. In a race against the clock, she and Tavik must find a way to exorcise Elath’s presence from her body. But will this release stop the countdown to the end of the world, or will it be the cause of the earth’s destruction? And as Tavik and Gelya grow closer, another question lingers between them: What will become of Gelya?
**A HUGE thank you to Megan Bannen for letting me read the book early and be apart of her book blogger team!**
When I first saw the cover of this book on Edelweiss and also read the synopsis, I KNEW that I had to read this! The blue and golden orange on the bird pop against the cracking stone and this is easily one of the BEST covers of this entire year! But not only that, this book was so emotional, rich in the religion/mythology, great banter between our two characters and a plot that doesn’t pull punches. For me, the biggest highlights were Gelya’s character development, Tavik as a male character and love interest and the theme and plot centering on the religion of this fantasy world.
The fist highlight is how this is book about two people who have no idea what the truth is when it comes to these two warring religions but they still do what they can on their journey to do good and find out the truth. As someone who is religious, I’m always curious of how authors deal with religion in fantasy books. This book is such a wonderful reminder that you can believe what you believe, that questioning isn’t a bad thing but as you find the answers, you can still believe if you wish to. These two people do think that the other person believes the wrong thing, but they do come to an understanding despite their differences and stick to their objective to help save the world. I loved this mystery if a goddess or a demon resides within Gelya and what that will mean for the world. This world has a story about how a demon was sealed away in order to keep the world peaceful and there’s a plot revolving around a hero and a demon but I won’t go much into that so it doesn’t spoil the latter part of the story. But I love how this entity is treated as either a demon by Gelya’s religion or a goddess according to what Tavik believes and the author builds that mystery so well of what will happen to our main character. The author truly shows the different views that people have: the prejudices against people who believe differently, those who have unshakable faith, those who just do what their told and people like Gelya who begin to question but still follows their heart to do what’s right. I won’t spoil the ending, but how the book ends is so true to what this story entails and I think it was a perfect ending to this standalone story.
The second highlight was how Gelya truly became her own person in this story. From being left on the convent steps as a child, she is raised in a convent and she delivers the word of the One True God through song. She wears shapeless clothing, has a shaved head and isn’t really allowed to show her femininity. Her life is spent in prayer, deciphering the words for the One True God and honestly, she has a simple life but doesn’t let her truly live. But after something major and brutal happens, she’s forced to go out into the world with a total stranger who ends up having the entity enter her body. But this journey lets Gelya come out of her shell and realize who she is. She starts to let her hair grow again, she tries more food, laughs more and eventually starts having feelings for Tavik. While she liked her simple life enough and believes her religion is still good, there’s a lot of lies and truths that come to her and she has to figure out between the two what really is the truth. I also liked seeing her fight against her destiny! She wants a normal life and while she has that for a time, they have this mission to complete and she hates not knowing what’s going to happen. I like that we see her question her existence, fall in love, meet different people and see the world for what it is. The author did such an amazing job at creating a protagonist to care about and root for the whole way.
The final highlight was Tavik as the second character and love interest for Gelya. He is a highly skilled warrior of the opposing religion who is brought before Gelya’s masters at her convent. But after something brutal happens, he saves her and before they escape, he does something to make the mysterious entity, whom Tavik believes is his goddess he believes in and then they flee into the world. Tavik, while very skilled in combat and isn’t afraid to defend Gelya, I loved the humor that came out of him. He had some funny moments that made me giggle and the author did such a great job fleshing him out and making you care about him just like Gelya. I also liked that their chemistry happened over time; while they didn’t each other at first, their turn to reluctant allies, then friends and then falling in love was so well done. It’s something that I don’t see often and it was executed so well. Plus the ending was both fitting and bittersweet as well! I loved how the ending is so fitting and fits despite it being bittersweet.
Overall: This was a rich standalone fantasy book that expertly shows differing religions and two people who try to find the truth. Gelya and Tavik were fantastic characters that I grew to care about right away. This book has such a great balance of humor, views on religions, some light romance and also sadness. If you need a fulfilling standalone, please check this one out! I do need to read her first book now since I really liked this one! Plus the cover is one of the BEST of the entire year 🙂 I can’t wait to see what the author writes next.
Soulswift Soundtrack (tailored by the author & me)
I always love seeing what kind of “soundtracks” go with certain books that I read. I asked Megan Bannen what songs she thinks fit this book or songs that she listened to while writing it. Some of these choices are so cool! So here’s a fan made soundtrack for Soulswift! The songs aren’t listed in any order 🙂
- Till, Till, Tove by Trio Mediaeval
- The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughn Williams
- My Heart, My Life by Nusrah Fateh Ali Khan and Michael Brook
- Prologue by Loreena McKennnitt
- Dante’s Prayer by Loreena McKennitt
- Watermark by Enya
- Now We Are Free by Lisa Gerrard from Gladiator
- Resolution by Kenji Kawai from Vampire Princess Miyu
- End of Time by Lacuna Coil
- Aloy’s Theme from Horizon Zero Dawn
- Destiny by Kenji Kawai from Vampire Princess Miyu
- Into Gaea from by Yoko Kanno Escaflowne: The Movie
- Field- Day from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Xenoblade Chronicles- Main Theme by Yoko Shimomura from Xenoblade Chronicles
What do you think of the fan made soundtrack? Are you excited for this book? Are there other YA standalone fantasy books you’d recommend?