The fourth book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series. Kellen and his murderous squirrel cat, Reichis, are on their own. They've heard rumour of a mythical monastery, known as the Ebony Abbey. It's a place that outsiders can never find - but Kellen is getting desperate. He's been told that the monks inside the Ebony Abbey know more about the Shadowblack than anyone else - and that they even know how to cure it.Then Kellen and Reichis are separated and for the first time, Kellen must face the world alone - and venture deeper into shadow magic than he ever knew he could. Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.
Sebastien de Castell had just finished a degree in Archaeology when he started work on his first dig. Four hours later he realized how much he actually hated archaeology and left to pursue a very focused career as a musician, ombudsman, interaction designer, fight choreographer, teacher, project manager, actor, and product strategist. His only defence against the charge of unbridled dilettantism is that he genuinely likes doing these things and that, in one way or another, each of these fields plays a role in his writing. He sternly resists the accusation of being a Renaissance Man in the hopes that more people will label him that way.
Sebastien's acclaimed swashbuckling fantasy series, The Greatcoats. was shortlisted for both the 2014 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy. the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Debut, the Prix Imaginales for Best Foreign Work, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. His YA fantasy series, Spellslinger, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and is published in more than a dozen languages.
Sebastien lives in Vancouver, Canada with his lovely wife and two belligerent cats. You can reach him at www.decastell.com
I don’t have much to say about this entry in the series! I feel like I am repeating the same things with every book I review in the series! the good news is that it is improving once again and we got some refresh elements.
The book is still more appropriate toward younger readers which it is actually meant to be for so I won’t blame it for that and that was why I opted for a short review rather than a long one because you can check my review of the first 3 books and it is the same!
Simple writing, good character growth, funny vs. cringy moments! I don’t feel the characters are in any real danger! I still am curious so I am finishing the series…
In my review of the previous book, Charmcaster, I noted how certain patterns seemed to keep popping up repeatedly in the storytelling. However, as I was reading Soulbinder, all I could think of was how Sebastien de Castell must have had the same concerns as I did on the direction of this series, because it seemed he did everything he could in this one to shake things up and make the story as unpredictable as possible again, even going as far as to make light of some of the repetitive patterns from the previous novels.
Needless to say, this time the introduction did not parallel the opening chapters of the previous books, although once more, the novel opens upon a scene of our protagonist Kellen and the squirrel cat Reichis struggling to survive another attempt on their lives. Such is the life of an outlaw, after all. Still, instead of Ferius Parfax charging to the rescue with her bold tricks and fiery words, this time the Argosi adventurer is nowhere to be found. And instead of barely managing to thwart their attackers and get away, this time our heroes wind up beaten and broken, lying in the hot desert sands waiting for death to claim them.
But when Kellen wakes up next, his elation at having survived is short-lived. He finds he has been kidnapped by a cult of monks afflicted with the cursed Shadowblack, who have spirited him away to their Ebony Abbey hidden in the snowy mountains. Worse, when they took him, they also left Reichis behind, leaving our protagonist all alone in a strange place.
No Ferius. No Reichis. You’d think I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book as much, since our beloved trio has been split apart, but nothing could be further from the truth. I loved Soulbinder, which might be the best installment since the first one. This is the book where it is truly Kellen on his own against the world, where his resolve is fully tested. Without the support of his friends, he must rely on only his own wits and skills, applying all that he has learned since leaving home to figure a way out of his predicament. As much as I love Ferius and Reichis, even I must admit a story like this was a long time coming, because readers needed to know just how far our boy has come.
That’s not to say Kellen doesn’t find help from other sources, some of them quite unexpected. It turns out there is more to the Ebony Abbey followers who have stolen him away, and among them, he makes a few new friends and allies. What’s more, we get to learn a lot more about the Shadowblack, which our protagonists and his companions have been trying to find a cure for since the beginning of the series. But what if there was more to the condition? For the first time, Kellen is willing to consider the possibility that there might be something more to the so-called curse, which means we are also one step further along on his journey to self-acceptance.
It would be hard to read this book and not to feel proud of him, watching him confront his demons and decide his own future. Having grown up in a society of labels and where one’s place in the hierarchy is everything, Kellen coming to grips with his new life as an exile was a huge turning point. Now he’ll have another challenge before him as he determines once and for all how to deal with his own family, from the father who has given up on him to the sister he doesn’t know if he can trust. Without Ferius to guide him, or Reichis to fight with him, Kellan is forced to follow his instincts and place priorities on what matters most. In some ways, this makes Soulbinder the most telling and important books in the series thus far, revealing all of our protagonist’s inner feelings and conflicts.
And so, if you’ve been following along and enjoying the Spellslinger adventures, this fourth volume is not one to be missed. A great deal hangs in the balance in this book, not least of all are the lives of friends both new and old. Soulbinder is a powerful installment that sees a hero coming into his own, and it is filled with momentous revelations and pivotal actions that will surely make it one of the more memorable books in the series.
This was so good! Our Kellan is growing up! This story sees him on an adventure without Ferius or Reichis. We also learn a lot more about the complexities of Shadowblack and Kellan learns more about his own condition. This showed excellent character development. Recommended.
I can't tell whether I'm totally hooked on the series because of all the cool things that have been discovered and/or learned through the course of them or whether this particular book shone, all on its own, a bit brighter than all but the first.
But enjoy it, I did. A lot. I'm loving the whole jack-of-all-trades vibe taking on masters of single schools of magic. :) Trickster? Yep. Highly observational? Yep.
In the heart of a land of Shadowblack monks hiding from the rest of the world and STILL getting into trouble for all the best of reasons? Yep.
With some really dark moments? That, too.
I'm telling you, fantasy novels like this, ones that are ostensibly YA but really rich in the KINDS of magic and fully developed rules for it, are still reliant on great characters and shining dialogue. Fortunately, this has it in spades. :)
I've wrote full reviews of the first three books in the series and basically it all boils down to the fact that I generally prefer YA books written by authors whose adult fantasies I've enjoyed as they tend to avoid annoying YA tropes. Poor Kellen was not a special snowflake by any measure of the word. An outcast of a powerful clan of sorcerers with just one branch (out of six) magical element in his command and marked with a curse in the form of shadowblack, Kellen gradually gained other skills - though by no means a master of any - that together with his wit enabled him to survive through the countless dangers he faced. His relationship with his mentor, Ferius Parfax, and his business partner, Reichis the squirrel cat, was also a highlight of the books so far.
However, Soulbinder was different from the usual narrative in the previous books as Kellen found himself on his own. I personally found this book to the best entry of the series so far as it was a game-changer that pushes Kellen's character growth to new heights. On top of that, we also get to learn a lot more about Kellen's supposed curse and affliction - the shadowblack - and what it could actually do. What has not changed, however, was how fun and entertaining it was to read. While there are serious and dark themes in these stories, Kellen's first person POV was hilarious and de Castell made it seemed so effortless. This was something that I've always enjoyed about his writing since reading The Greatcoats - the laugh-out-loud humour which did not have to lean on being satirical or slapstick to do so.
Spellslinger continues to be one of the best YA series with Soulbinder being another great entry.
As before, the standout element is the nuanced relationship that Kellen has with his family especially with his father. Even though the amount of pages devoted to this relationship & interaction is in the single digits, it is enough to elevate the story from the sea of YA fiction out there.
The other aspects of this series - Kellen's wit(?), the action, fast paced writing, unique world building - are as strong in this book as in the earlier installments.
Still loving this series, and how broad the universe is!
Kellen is brilliant in this one - really coming across as a young kid forced to grow up too fast, and a good trickster, but also a sensible (trouble loving) head on his shoulders! His interactions with all the new characters was fab. My favourite is Butelios, he’s awesome! I’m really hoping we see more of him in the future. And as much as I sort of want to push Diadera off a cliff, I really enjoyed her character too.
I loved getting to see more of Nephenia, and the role she played in this made me smile. I did miss Ferius though, as I knew I would.
And saving the best for last, Reichis. I love that murderous squirrel cat. His relationship with Kellen is always wonderful, and though he wasn’t in this enough, he still shone through.
The only complaint I had was the abbot’s motivations were not great, but I can see how he ended up where he was. I just found it as frustrating as Kellen did. And there was a point about half way through where I had to stop reading for a bit - far from poorly written, but enough to shock me out of it a bit. You’ll know what I mean when you get there. As always it is brilliantly written and funny, and I can’t wait for book five!
Just when things started feeling 'same old, same old' Sebastien de Castell switches everything up! Kellen is on his own and thrown into a predicament without any help from his companions. He is forced to grow as a character, and in doing so, we learn a lot more about his Shadowblack problem and what it could all mean.
I had a helluva fun time with this one, and after the first book, it is probably my favorite in the series so far. At first, I was put a little off balance with the omission of some of my favorite characters, however, I quickly grew to love (or at least be fascinated by) the new peoples that the author has populated his story with.
Again, just like the other books, this is an action-packed book that reads really quickly. It is peppered with the usual humor, although, I feel like this one had darkness behind the tongue in cheek banter that the other ones didn't, which in turn, really hammered home the seriousness of Kellen's plight.
✅ Gorgeous cover ✅ World-building 🆗✅ Characters 🆗✅ Plot and pace 🆗 Magic
A very good book in a very good series, but I was a little disappointed by the absence of Reichis for most of the story, but I think that it was necessary to help Kellen grow as a character. He is more sensible and we can see that deep down he still is that boy that was shunned from his family and forced to grow too fast.
He develops new relationships and gets to interact with his father and we can see how nuanced and complicated his relationship with his family is. For him and for them... There is also a lot of new characters in Soulbinder and I do hope that we will see more of them (some of them at least) in the next book. I grew attached to some of them and others I wanted to punch in the face, but still, they had their part to play in the events and they helped Kellen to come a little bit more to terms with his Shadowblack and what it can do.
Kellen searches for the Ebony Abbey - his latest hope to find a cure for his shadowblack. In this installment Kellen is even separated from Reichis. The reader encounters many new characters and gains an interesting view on the shadowblack. Kellen once again has to rely on his Argosi training and is forced to reconsider his family ties. Will war be inevitable? Are the cultural differences to big to be overcome? Read for yourself ;) I enjoyed this book immensely amongst others due to B. a new character but also because of Kellen holding on to his principles while still evolving. Two books are still left and I have still no idea how the series will end which is a good sign for me. Thank you Sebastian for creating those wonderful characters and thank you for giving me B.
I discovered the first book in the Spellslinger series in December 2017, and after reading the following two books in the series earlier this year, it's become a huge favourite.
So, I was more than excited to see Soulbinder pop up in NetGalley as I was desperate to find out what happened after the events of Charmcaster. I'm going to do my very best here to keep any spoilers out of this review, but if you haven't read the first three books of this series, you might want to look away now. You can find my reviews of book two (Shadowblack) and book three (Charmcaster) by clicking on the respective links.
This series goes from strength to strength with each new instalment that I read, and Soulbinder is no exception. It felt much more action-packed than the other books in the series, which really sped up the pace.
I have noticed a few recurring trends in these books, often with how they start (in the form of the trouble that Kellen is usually in), something bad happening to my favourite character, and the endings which lead Kellen on a new path and show how much he's grown, but each time it's something a little different that keeps things fresh and moving forward, and whilst each individual book has a sub-plot, the overall plot is continuously fuelled and driven forwards.
One of the best things about this book is the new characters, in particular, Butelios who is the absolute sweetest person, and the source of many, many smiles during his interactions with Kellen.
"...wearing an idiots smile so bright it made you want to kiss him. Even if you weren't into boys."
(Shame, because I'd totally ship these two!)
Kellen has developed beautifully throughout this series, discovering new strengths, facing his weaknesses, learning new truths and just becoming a better person. He truly rules this book (as does my little fur baby Reichis, of course) and his agony was so painful to witness, even though at the same time you can visibly see just how much he's grown and learned from Ferius and Reichis, becoming the hero (I personally believe) he was destined to be all along.
This book is the most heart-wrenching of the entire series, and I was so close to sobbing at one point that I almost didn't want to continue, so brace yourself for ALL THE FEELS!
"Life ought to be more than just losing the things you love one after another until you have nothing left."
As always, the politics between the various regions, clans, peoples etc. in this series, made the book extremely interesting, as did seeing the cast of new characters clashing with the old. Look out for some pretty awesome new displays of magic!!
The book itself is absolutely stunning, so far we've had beautifully illustrated covers in red, blue, orange and now green...I think the next one is purple and it's going to look stunning! The illustrations inside are also beautiful and work extremely well alongside the funny and poignant quotes at the start of each paragraph.
"Cages have bars and everyone knows you're supposed to escape a cage, but houses have walls and people lock themselves inside to feel safe. You ask me, it's a lot easier to break out of a cage than a house. - What passes for Squirrel Cat Wisdom."
After reading Soulbinder, I can't wait to find out where Kellen's journey takes him next, to discover new enemies, reface old ones, to reconnect with past characters, to be introduced to new ones, and above all, to see what kind of man he becomes.
"...I won't know for sure until I meet the man you're going to be once you finally get tired of being the boy you once were."
If fantasy and magic is your thing and you're looking for a story featuring an unlikely non-typical hero, a ferocious, bloodthirsty squirrel cat, beautiful friendships, brutal enemies and uncertainty at every turn, I highly recommend that you read this series!
This series is just. so. good! Full disclosure: I didn't like Soulbinder as much as the previous two installments, but we're talking about the tiniest amount, really. This had mainly to do with the fact that we don't get to see much of some of my favourite characters (one of them in particular), whom I did miss quite a bit.
At the same time, I really appreciate that Kellen has to rely on himself to get out of the trouble he gets himself into. You get to see how much he has grown, while it's also clear that he still has a long way to go.
Lastly, I want to say that only Sebastien de Castell can make you go from bawling your eyes out on one page to laughing hysterically on the next. Two Letters might be my new favourite chapter of the entire series and it's about as perfect an ending to this book as I could've asked for. Tears and joy, 5⭐️.
This series keep getting better and better. The multi layer story style as always awesome. The solo performance of Kellen's showed character development. I genuinely scared about Reichis for a while. Overall a top notch writing, kick ass story and complex characters. Sebastien de Castell showed yet again that he is one of the best out there right now with this book 📙.
*Contains spoilers for previous books in the series
This book was missing one important thing—Ferius.
After leaving Ferius and Nephenia following the tumultuous events of Charmcaster, Kellen and his companion—er, business partner, Reichis find themselves traversing the Golden Passage, a euphemism for “treacherous desert that can and will kill you” in search of a cure for Kellen’s shadowblack. Things go wrong and Kellen is separated from Reichis, finding himself at Ebony Abbey, a safe haven for shadowblacks...or is it?
In this book we learn more about the origins of Kellen’s shadowblack and what this seventh, forbidden form of magic entails, which I found pretty interesting. Like its predecessors, Soulbinder is fast-paced and easy to read. Some more explanation on the magic would have been nice, though in the acknowledgments the author straight-up says “Hey, you don’t like info-dumps and neither do I,” so I can respect that.
Some new characters were introduced—Diadera, Tournam, and Butelios, only one of which I actually liked. There was no reason to mold Diadera into yet another romantic interest. The whole telepathic thing was a bit much. And considering there was no point. Tournam was a jerk, but got better, then turned into a jerk again. Butelios made some...interesting comments, but overall he was a good character. He was able to crack a joke after getting thrown off a cliff about getting thrown off a cliff, so there’s that. Shalla and Ke’heops are also present in this installment. I don’t like Shalla—Kellen needs to make up his mind about trusting and interacting with her. Ke’heops is so bent on attaining power but some of the things he admits to Kellen (especially that line) have me thinking that he is more multifaceted than he first appeared.
There was a section of this book that came as a great shock— To have the audacity to In the end,
The whole traveling shtick is getting old, so hopefully things get wrapped up soon. Considering there’s two books left, one can only hope.
“Three parts gambler, two parts Argosi, and one part Kellen of the House of Ke”
Okay so, Spellslinger book 4, ‘SoulBinder’. Sebastien does it again and brings out another fantastic adventure in this already great series. I will say flat out, right here and now, that this book is not as great as the first 3. Now when I say that I don’t mean that it is anything less than the 5-star rating I am giving it, it just lacks something that the previous 3 had. Unfortunately, what that is, might be considered a minor spoiler so I will tag it such at the end of my inane ramblings. What I will say here is the fact that this book is, in my opinion, not as good as the first few does nothing to diminish the fact that as a reader, I loved it all the same. We learned more about the ShadowBlack “curse” and met a plethora of new characters in this story. We also travel of course to a new location that is again different than what Kellen may be used to.
To start I enjoyed the characters that were introduced and shared the story with the Kellen in this installment. I do wish we could have dived deeper into the back stories to some of these characters, but knowing how the flow of the novel is and how each book is set in its own short story its understandable how it played out. I just feel like there could have been more of an opportunity to connect (for better or worse) to those few side characters before wrapping up this chapter in Kellen’s adventure. I think it would have made the ending here a lot more impactful/meaningful.
The land is new and fresh, the magic introduced here is also something that neither we nor Kellen has seen before. The system feels fresh but also portrays the same vibe as the existing Jan’tep magic. It was fun to read about it and wonder what else this world has in store for the future. In this new place specifically, Kellen finds himself in the Ebony Abby, a placed rumored to house a cure to the ShadowBlack. As we know, rumors should be taken with as many grains of salt as one wants.
As to the reason why I find the other three books better than this one:
Overall, I am in deep with this series, and I don’t think I’ll be able to think about or concentrate on anything else until I finish it. And surprisingly enough, I think I am okay with that.
“The path ain’t just a destination, kid. The path is who you are and who you aim to be.”
Soulbinder is the book that finally breaks the mold we have been comfortable with so far. Kellen is on his own and in a new land with all new challenges and faces. That is not to say we still don't see some of the old characters because at points we do. This story though is what I would call the turning point of the story. We pick up six months after the closing events of Charmcaster. Kellen and Reichis are on their own in a desert landscape until Kellen finds himself in the town of the Ebony Abbey.
I know my biggest qualm with this series so far has been the lack of expansion in the magic system. However with Soulbinder we get a plethora of new knowledge of the Shadowblack curse. Which sucks at this point for reviewing purposes because there is nothing I can tell you without spoiling. However I really enjoyed this new take on the Shadowblack.
Something I thought Sebastien de Castell did really well in Soulbinder was the character arc Kellen went on. I think being four books in now it was the right call to go this route of Kellen kind of exploring and growing on his own. Even though, and I have said this multiple times, Kellen can be insufferable to a point. Like I just want to shake the kid to his senses. Also since Kellen finds himself on his own we are introduced to a whole new slew of characters. All of which I really enjoyed. Some standouts for me were Tournam, Butelios, Diadera, and Suta'rei.
This series so far has been such a fun and adventurous ride and I am having so much fun. Soulbinder is probably tied with being my favorite next to Charmcaster, but like I said in the beginning this is definitely a turning point for the series.
Na Kouzelnici to nemá, ale pořád na tuhle sérii nedám dopustit! Chybělom mi tu pár postav, ale opět mám milion lepíků všech druhů: krásné citáty, vtipy, romantika, zajímavé myšlenky, šokující zvraty i úsměvné situace. Přečteno za dva dny... a to jsem si to chtěla vychutnat po kouskách, eh. 4,5/5*
Ketvirtasis serijos tomas. Ir čia autorius imasi rizikingo žingsnio. Atsikrato dalies personažų, palikdamas pagrindinį herojų vieną. Bet visai vieną – net be savo ištikimojo voveriakatino, kuris savo šarmu nemenkai prisidėjo prie serijos patrauklumo. Žingsnis rizikingas, bet de Castellas sėkmingai išlaviruoja. Kelleną likimas nubloškia į mitinį Juodąjį Vienuolyną, kuriame neva žino paslaptį, kaip išgydyti jį kamuojantį prakeiksmą – Juodąjį Šešėlį. Bet legendos, būna, meluoja. Ne išimtis ir šita, taip, vienuolynas ir liga susiję. Tik mažumėlę kitaip – visi čia esantys paliesti to paties prakeiksmo. Ir nė neketina nuo jo gydytis. Ką gi, atrodo, Kellenas pagaliau savas tarp savų? Nė velnio. Tie, kas iš tikrųjų turi būti savi, jį nuolat išduoda. Tie, kas galėtų tapti savais – irgi. Tad jis vėl visiškai vienas turės aiškintis su tuo, kas užgrius ir jį, ir Juodąjį Vienuolyną. O gal?.. Gal vis dėlto – ne vienas? Dinamika niekur nedingo. Kaip ir klišės, bet kadangi jomis žongliruojama gana meistriškai – tai nelabai ir trukdo. Juolab kad iš knygos gaunu būtent tai, ko ir tikėjausi – gerą kokybišką pramogą. Keturi iš penkių. Ir keliaujam tolyn.