Curse on the Land is all about soul: the souls who are lost, the ones who save themselves, the ones in conflict, the alien nature of the soul, and the soul of the land. It’s the common thread that ties the elements of the second installment in the Soulwood series by Faith Hunter together.
Hunter doesn’t bash you over the head with it… it’s a theme that weaves itself gently throughout the storyline, much as ivy will work its way from its roots and weave itself into a pattern over anything it grabs. Its subtlety is part of what makes it so lovely.
At the core of this story is the emergence of the protagonist Nell Ingram into mainstream society… but she does it in a truly roundabout way. Her induction into this world is ushered in through her involvement with PsyLED (a magical law enforcement agency) and recent graduation from Spook School. It’s a highly exclusive club whose members are anything but average.
Just as Nell is anything but average. Here’s a sample of the goodies:
“T. Laine?” I said again. She took another step. And another. I called her name, louder. When she didn’t turn, training took over. I rushed her. Dropped. Tackled her at the hips. One hand ripping the gun away from her. And to my feet.She came up swearing, fists swinging, and she shouted,. “What the holy hell do you think you’re doing? Gimme me my gun!”I held the weapon at her, centered on her chest.T. Laine’s face underwent a series of changes. “What the holy hell. Nell?”“Are you back in your right mind?”“Huh?”“Who is president of the US? Who is the leader of Unit Eighteen?”She answered both questions, her expression shifting from anger to bewilderment. “What happened?”I lowered the weapon. Uncurled my finger from the trigger and placed it along the slide. Dropped my shoulders, which had hunched up at the stress of watching T. Laine fall under some weird kind of compulsion.
She doesn’t even rate “average” among those whose standards include tails, magic slinging and mind reading abilities. Nell is a square peg in a set of ovals. But this isn’t to say that Nell’s a superstar. She’s delightfully awkward, flawed, naive and child-like, despite her depths.
She’s a fascinating heroine, one who’s admirable in both her strengths and her weaknesses. If you’re going to fall in love with a character (as have I), she’s a magificent example of a strong female who’s believable, likable and compelling… and for a paranormal book that’s saying something.
Bonus for word junkies — the prose in this book can be absolutely haunting:
I was met with a feeling of warmth, of welcome, as if the land was awake now and waiting for me. As if it had expanded, unfolded, yawned and reached out to welcome me.
Just gorgeous. This is what happens when an author knows how to build emotion through the careful use of sentence structure and word choice. That’s art.
Do yourself a favor and check out this novel. It’s the shot in the literary arm paranormal fiction needs.
I received Curse on the Land as an ARC but I’m buying it on audio since I love the performances of Khristine Hvam, and especially loved her delivery on the first Soulwood novel, “Blood of the Earth” (you can find it at Audible here).