The Last Soul by J.M. Lively: Review by E.G. Stone

Death does not always mean the end. Certainly not in fantasy stories. But what if all of the ideas that you had about what went on after the grave were, well, somewhat mistaken? The Last Soul by Jonathon Lively is book one in the Oreniah Codex, an exploration of one soul’s journey through what comes next, but also how to get back.

The initial chapter, dealing with the cat soul Ches, led me to be extremely intrigued in what was going on. When we then encounter the main character, Lathan, I was thrilled to be able to see how he was going to interact with Ches and all the intricacies of Oreniah. Lathan’s life, though, does take a while to examine. Yes, it is important because it describes his relationships and his reason for wanting to get back—and therefore undergoing all the things he undergoes while on Oreniah—but it does take a while to get into. I found myself a little confused by how ordinary Lathan’s life was. However, this does change after a bit. We are introduced to some of the oddities which lead to his death. Then, things really start to pick up.

I would say that this plot may start off slowly (excepting the introduction with Ches) but it definitely does not continue that way. There is a lot going on in Lathan’s life after he, well, dies. And objectively, it may seem like simple things, but it is also so much more than that. Once this plot starts really going, it really goes.

At first, Lathan seems, I have to admit, like a bit of a bumbling fool. He is obviously in love with his family and he really enjoys his life. He does seem to be a bit oblivious to some things, though, and that really shows in his relationship with his wife, Tara. However, when push comes to shove, Lathan is a definite hero. He has a firm sense of right and wrong. He will do as much as he can to help those he cares about. He listens and tries to understand.

Also, his soul—and related abilities—is pretty awesome. Controlling the air? Very cool!

My favourite part would probably be the bit near the end where Lathan and Justice finally get to whollop their opponents and see what sort of team they can be. I can, unfortunately, give you no more than that because of spoilers, but believe me when I say that it is not only a great character building moment, but it is also just an epic throw down.

What can I say? Sometimes I like the bits where they just hit stuff. It’s therapeutic.

My biggest critique is probably to do with the worldbuilding. That is to say, the world of Oreniah and all its lore is extremely interesting and very cool. However, the way that this world is described overwhelms the story a bit.

A lot of the scenes that are pivotal to character development or plot development or just a really big fight are interspersed with huge amounts of description. This means that the world itself is very clear, but it can also be a bit too much. For example, there were a couple of fight scenes where I had to go back and re-read a good deal of the action because every movement and detail was depicted. This made it hard to imagine in my head because what might have felt natural for me to imagine was not what was depicted. This isn’t to say that what was depicted was wrong or off, just that it was a little too much. This also happened a few times with simple descriptions of scenes. There were just too many details and it overwhelmed what was actually happening with the characters themselves.

On the whole, though, I thought this book was really very interesting. The story was unique. The characters were well written and very interesting. I think they will continue to expand and grow in subsequent books and that will be a great journey. The action sequences are done on an epic scale and that is highly entertaining to read. So, even with the world itself being perhaps a bit too much for the characters and the action, I would say that this book was definitely fun to read. I would say that it is good, bordering on very good.


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