Review of Soul Shade (Soul Stones #2) by T.L. Branson

Death lies around every corner.
The newly crowned queen of Aralith, Maya Drygo, is reeling from the loss of her father and the destruction of her city. With the threat of war looming beyond the horizon, she must race to rally the kingdom against an unknown threat, but trouble lies closer to home than she realizes.
When Maya’s refusal to forgive Will Sumner for her father’s death leads to a difference of opinion around battle preparations, Will storms off to take matters into his own hands. Now Maya is left to navigate the politics of being queen on her own.
In the cutthroat realm of lords and ladies, Maya learns everything is not as it appears. With no one but a stranger standing beside her, she realizes if she’s to survive she’ll have to give what she never has before: trust.
The kingdom is falling apart, the gods of old are reawakening, and a bloodthirsty enemy stands between her and the peace she’s fought so hard to protect. 
**Possible Spoilers**

The reader is immediately hooked with a clearly strong female heroine with a direct relation to the late King Alexander Drygo. It’s worth mention that she, Khate, is a woman in her forties which is a refreshing twist in the genre that is typically immersed in the minds of teens. Point of view changes are still frequent but fluid and well defined. The new characters are phenomenal, and the new relationship developments are beautifully intertwined with the main story line. Sowena is a character that is difficult to like, but she makes a terrific turn around about a quarter of the way through the book. Between her and Khate, plus Maya, the reader could hardly want for a better mashup of strong female leads. The story arc holds with tales like Pirates of the Caribbean with multiple protagonists on multiple adventures at once. With the addition of seafaring adventures, there is a distinct pirate-y feel to many of the escapades while the world is also now fully intertwined with elves that invite a more high fiction tone to the various ongoing quests. Branson is hitting all of the sub-genres of fantasy with this one. Will’s power manifests itself more in Book 2 than it did in Book 1, which was satisfying! There are plenty of twists and turns, and with each one the plot thickens. (Though I may be a little dense, because in retrospect, all of the clues are so bright, but when we find out who Khate is, that was my personal favorite!) Some of the dialogue becomes predictable, but in an anecdotal, had-to-say-it, that-was-classic, chuckle kind of way. Soul Render was the adventure of a young boy with a rebel’s cause who wound up with the powers of a goddess. The scope was fairly small, but in Soul Shade, the scope widens significantly, and it is the stage setter for the world conflict. Not to mention that by the end, Will Sumner seems poised upon a precarious precipice. T.L. Branson fully delivers with a five star adventure!

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