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eARC Review: Carver of Souls by J.J. Fischer

Release Date:  15 March 2024

Rating 5/5

Synopsis:  The ocean between them isn’t the only thing keeping them apart.

Thanks to the machinations of the evil pirate and marauder, Uriah Smith, and Azazel’s cold-hearted leader, Lord Janus Auberon, an ocean now separates Sela from her beloved Caleb. When the unthinkable occurs, she despairs of life itself, until an act of unexpected kindness allows her to escape her captors.

Sela finds an unexpected ally in Prince Magnus Theodorus, who arrives on the island with a strange request: that his real identity not be revealed. Finding hope and healing along with the other members of the Remenant, Sela finally comes face to face with the Carver of Souls, learning the truth about the order of the Righteous, the lot, and Azazel itself.

Meanwhile, having been betrayed by the one person he thought he could always trust, Caleb fights desperately to get back to the one place to which he never expected to return. Struggling to forgive his brother for sins past and present, Caleb confronts the ugliness of Tucker’s—and his own—soul. When he is at last reunited with Sela, he fights to reclaim a bond she fears is lost.

Just when all seems restored, Caleb is offered a surprising opportunity: a chance to take back what once belonged to him. What will Caleb choose? And what will his choice mean for those around him—not only for the brother who betrayed him, but the woman he loves and the newfound faith that means more to him than life itself?



Be advised:  Though this is a spoiler-free review, astute readers may pick up on clues hinted at and be spoiled anyway.  Proceed with caution past the first paragraph.  It is highly recommended to read The Soul Mark first before finishing this review.

Fischer’s conclusion to The Soul Mark duology blew me away (and left me hanging, dangit).  I’m a huge fan of allegories (I think I’m the only person I know who liked reading The Scarlet Letter when I was in high school), and Carver of Souls is a fantastic, beautiful allegory.  Where The Soul Mark took us on a tense adventure to a treacherous island with corrupt overlords and pirate criminals, Carver of Souls ventures inside the heart of all these characters as they make their ways back to one another and try to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives from the ashes.  If you think the reunions will be sweet, think again.  If you love allegorical writing, deep and emotional characters, and tear-jerking reads, you’ll want to pick this duology up pronto.  The Soul Mark is out now and included with Kindle Unlimited, and Carver of Souls releases 15 March 2024.  

I’m very glad this book came out so soon after the release of the first one; I would not have waited patiently for it.  What a steep cliffhanger ending!  After the events concluding The Soul Mark, readers learn what happens to Sela, Caleb, Tucker, and friends immediately upon opening the first page of Carver.  Not one of them is in a good place, and all of their circumstances are dire.  Fear not, bookish folk, Fischer is a gentle author closely resembling a drill instructor.  She will take you through some tough stuff, but in the end, you’ll be okay (and fitter for it).  

Carver of Souls deviates stylistically a bit from The Soul Mark, which served as a prequel of allusion of sorts.  The characters go through a tremendous amount of trauma (none of which is graphic) and healing only to be thrust into more at the end of the book.  Where The Soul Mark is an adventure story, romance, and political thriller; Carver of Souls pairs allegory (which was slightly hinted at in the first book) with a romance and redemption story.  

Those familiar with the roots of the allegory will find its rendition a balm to the soul.  Much like the story in Ben Hur and The Chronicles of Narnia, it features a group of people whose daily lives revolve around the events of a world (and a specific person) that need help and a huge problem to fix.  In the case of this world, it’s the idea that those who bear the soul mark, essentially the near equivalent of sin eaters, must find a way to thwart the efforts of those with power who use the remote location of Azazel to abuse their power and oppress the inhabitants.  

Fischer’s true talent lies not in her world building (which is, frankly, nothing to sneeze at) but in her amazing characters.  The amount characters carried over from The Soul Mark expands, and it is not a burden on the reader at all.  The depth of the connections the characters have with one another and the staggering amount of growth they go through individually and together illustrate the amazing talent Fischer shows as a storyteller.  All of the characters are relatable, illicit deep emotion (you might need tissues) and provoke strong reaction (I may have shouted at my book a few times).  

I remember first reading Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion trilogy years ago when I was going through an epically tough time in my life.  Those books were so encouraging and so engrossing; I was immensely grateful for the distraction and uplifting they provided for me.  The Soul Mark duology feels very much like those books.  They’re so entertaining and minister to me at the same time.  I’ll treasure them on my shelves.  I’m wondering if the rest of Mountain Brook Ink’s books are similar to these; I’m definitely going to give the other books a look-see because Fischer’s books are great.  

If you’re in need of a good boost and a book with substance, I really recommend Fischer’s books.  Carver of Souls only adds to an already impressively done repertoire of fiction, and I don’t see myself disliking any of her books in the future.  I’ve read almost all of them.  

My thanks to Mountain Brook Ink publishing and J.J. Fischer for the eARC, for which I willingly and heartily give my own, honest opinion.

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