Author: J. J. Fischer
Series: The Soul Mark Duology #1
Release Date: April 30, 2023
Publisher: Mountain Brook Ink
Nineteen-year-old Selah is a murderer.
After being sentenced to death for the accidental killing of a wealthy, well-connected man, Sela Meriweather is offered another option—to be stripped of her soul and sentenced to lifetime exile on Azazel, the vast prison-island. There, alongside “dangerous” criminals like herself, firstborn children of the Old Town chosen by the lot are sent to atone for the sins of their families.
As one of the elected Righteous, Caleb Alexander’s path to widespread renown is guaranteed so long as he can endure a year as an overseer on Azazel, preventing the other guards from fraternizing with the prisoners. But as he finds himself drawn to Sela, Caleb wrestles with the implications of his new role and the laws forbidding contact between jailer and prisoner. Could a woman like Sela truly be soulless?
While Caleb tries to resist his growing attraction, Sela struggles with the weight of her sins and the past she has kept from Caleb. But when mutiny against the Old Town brews on Azazel, Sela and Caleb must work together to stay alive . . . and to uncover the truth behind the very powers that created Azazel in the first place.
Reviewer: Rick Norris
After being sentenced to death for the accidental killing of a wealthy, well-connected man, Sela Meriweather is offered another option—to be stripped of her soul and sentenced to lifetime exile on Azazel, the vast prison island. There, alongside “dangerous” criminals like herself, firstborn children of the Old Town chosen by lot are sent to atone for the sins of their families.
When I started reading this novel, I thought I could plot its course—Hunger Games meets Tolkien. But I was wrong. J. J. Fischer turned the corner quickly, leading her characters into almost inescapable conflicts, setting the reader on edge. At times I thought the story had gone to a dead-end with no way out for the character, only to see the author find a rabbit trail out of it.
She also weaves the fantasy world with character passions very well, using excellent prose. For example, I love these kinds of sentences that bring the reader into the world and minds of the characters. “In the near dark, the tips of the waves already frothed and curled, the ship shuddering and groaning as it glided through a roiling, heaving mass of black. Rain spewed from a bloated sky, soaking her hair and gown, while a rogue wave smacked against the side of the ship and splattered her with icy salt spray.”
Ms. Fischer also weaves in Christian analogy into the story’s religion. The book is set in a society that has distorted the fundamentals of their religious belief. She raises the blood pressure of the reader, who would object to the distortion of truth and justice that the reader may feel as a Christian.
Regarding characters, Ms. Fischer creates strong male and female characters, gently balancing their virtues and flaws. She unpeels the onion exposing layers of traits that magnify themselves as circumstances change.
I highly recommend this, not only to fantasy fans but to romance and adventure readers. Well done!
I received a review copy courtesy of the author through Interviews & Reviews for an unbiased and objective review.
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