Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I received an advanced copy of this book from the author. All of the opinions in this review are my own and entirely honest. There are no significant spoilers beyond what’s in the “Content Notes/Warning” section directly below the review.
Soulless, the third novel in Montiese McKenzie’s Awakening of the Spirit series, is an urban fantasy crime drama with expansive cast of interconnected characters, a thrilling main plot, and a frightening villain called the Darkness looming over the protagonists’ lives and manipulating the world around them.
Honestly, it kind of has a little bit of everything thanks to the book’s focus on found families, immediately aww-worthy relationships, intense action scenes, and McKenzie’s vivid writing style.
In the main plot, after the Meratrix (an all-female, siren-like supernatural species) Preksha tells her lover, the spirit Jacob Falconer, about a spate of killings affecting her kind, it quickly turns out that this isn’t a “normal” serial killer. Someone is hunting the Meratrix in order to complete the parts of a dark ritual and it’s going to take some serious sleuthing to catch the killer.
I loved how this main plot reminded me of some of the fancy police procedurals that my mom can’t get enough out, but took a necessarily grimmer turn because the characters impacted felt so real (as opposed to the usually impersonal stakes of those shows).
The secondary plot (which, weirdly enough starts in the first chapter, before we find out about the serial killing stuff) is about Nathan, the son of vampires Paul and Kathryn (who’s now married to the protagonist from the first novel), getting sucked into a bad crowd that definitely doesn’t have the best intentions for him.
Nathan’s experiences with Chase, the vampire essentially trying to groom him, and Luca, the vampire he finds himself falling for, are top-tier emotional moments and I would love to see more of Nathan growing as a vampire. (He’s a character that I didn’t love at the start, but he straight up grew on me by the end of the book and I want him to be happy.)
Soulless pulls zero punches and the serial killer plot is incredibly dark, but at the end of the day it’s a story about a supernatural found-family and what they have to do in order to protect the people they love and the world they live in. McKenzie writes that good and gritty, noir-adjacent urban fantasy, but what kept me coming back for more (and using my emergency Amazon gift card to buy the first two books in the series) were the incredible found family dynamics and realistic characters!
I suggest picking up all three of the books in the series as soon as you can! While Soulless can technically be read without having read the previous two novels (McKenzie provides plenty of backstory and character description to fill the reader in), I don’t suggest it ONLY because y’all need to experience the journey of the full series in order.
Content Warnings/Notes: relatively graphic violence that primarily deals with murdered female characters, the typical amount of blood for a series with vampires in it, one secondary vampire character is forced into sex work by his sire offscreen with mentions on the page, some anti-queer sentiments at the start of chapter 9 (it’s immediately (and repeatedly) shown as Not Okay), and an attempted rape in chapter 9 (that comes up again in the next chapter)
Are There Sex Scenes/Sexual Content?: There’s some sensual content.
What I Liked Most About It: Urban fantasy with a majority of the characters being people of color, strong female characters who aren’t Strong Female Characters ™, a vast mythology that incorporates supernatural beings from around the world, Maggie’s everything (I really hope she gets more page time in the next book because her appearances were a delight), and how McKenzie manages to balance the darkness of her world (and her characters fighting against the literal Darkness) with gentle family moments and true tenderness such as the scene between Kathryn, her husband Rube, and Kathryn’s kids (who Rube is fond of/cares for).
What I Could’ve Done Without: Not so much “done without”, but there are a couple of… cliffhangers? (The main plots are wrapped up by the end of the novel, BUT the big bads/major minions are still afoot since it’s an ongoing series). They just make me want the next book in my greedy little hands all that faster, but then… I’m an impatient baby that is hungry for more of this amazing series.
Where Y’all Can Buy It: Amazon
Author’s Website/Social Media: Montiese McKenzie @ Twitter | Website
Rating: Highly Recommended
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