Soul Breaker (A City of Crows Novel)
Author: Clara Coulson.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Genre: Urban Fantasy, New Adult, Supernatural, Crime ~
A terrifying ambush and near-death experience changes the course of Cal Kinsey’s life or at the very least, his career. Once on the path to becoming an honoured officer of the Aurora PD, Kinsley’s brush with the supernatural sends him right back into training – to be a DSI agent (Department of Supernatural Investigations). His first day on the job sees him screwing up massively, to the point where he almost gets himself killed, and that’s only the start of the biggest case he’s had since quitting the force two years earlier.
Coulson’s twist on the oober popular crime genre lends a breath of fresh air to an otherwise stagnant form. Her main character, Calvin Kinsey, is wonderfully flawed: a newbie who can’t help but get himself stuck between a rock and an Eververse Monster (umm… hard place); a guy who keeps breaking standard issue equipment; a mortal man who is not invincible but tries his darndest to keep people from dying. This is the kind of character to get excited about.
What really spoke to me with this particular book though, was the concept of the Eververse; an other-world construct that encompasses all known (both imaginable and unimaginable) entities of the supernatural. I quite enjoyed the division between the ‘regular’ cops, DSI Agents (non-magical humans who fight supernatural crime), and the ICM (International Council of Magic – magic wielding human diplomates to the supernatural community). The political structure of this world, especially where these regulating bodies are concerned, is a house of cards ready to topple – making for great tension and layering.
However, there are certain sticking points about Soul Breaker that left me less enthusiastic about the book. The first is a personal preference away from first-person, present-tense points of view. This is a difficult POV to pull off at the best of times. Here I found it distracting and tending more toward telling the story rather than showing us – because, quite frankly, people don’t ‘think’ like narrators. The scope is quite limited and when you look too closely at something, like how a person reacts to a bad situation, it can (and does) get awkward.
But I didn’t want to discredit the book on the POV, because I thoroughly enjoy the other books written by Coulson under her pen name Therin Knight. What I found though, was a confused character. Coulson frames Cal Kinsey as a bit of a bad-ass or man’s-man. While it’s true that we learn there’s more to Cal than just this facade, there were times it felt like a woman speaking instead of a man. The vocabulary didn’t ring true for me. Often his observances put me in mind of a teenage girl and not a twenty-something worldly male (as worldly as you can be growing up in Aurora). This not only pulled me out of the story on numerous occasions, but underscored a lack of depth for his character.
Lastly, while I found the story line compelling, many of the other supporting characters came across as two-dimensional. This is likely due to the fact that there’s only so much a reader can learn from the perspective Coulson chose to tell the story from, but also because we didn’t get to see or learn much about the true nature of these people. The few times Coulson does attempt to delve into another character’s past or emotional trauma, it falls short. I don’t feel a connection because I’m having to process what is happening through Cal’s eyes and strained emotional reactions.
Soul Breaker is a solid first novel for Clara Coulson, and anyone who enjoys first-person shooter games and who-done-it crime novels will lap up all this book has to offer. For my part though, I’ll stick to reading Coulson’s time tested alter-ego, Therin Knight.
Review by M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor.