Skip to main content

“Souls are the currency. Death is the price.”

Soul CageIn Soul Cage, L.R. Schulz gives Sanderson a run for his money with his incredibly wild imagination and unbelievably cool yet terrifying soul-transference magic system. Darkly disturbing yet casually diverse and full of heart, this first instalment in the Soulbreaker series will sing to the souls of any and all dark fantasy lovers.

Through the perspectives of three very compelling and uniquely diverse characters, we are transported into the bleak world of Otor, where murder breeds magic. The most powerful mage in existence, who also happens to be a drunkard and drug addict; a neurodivergent young man training to become a strong mage in the ranks of the Knights of Aen; and a soul-broken woman on a revenge path, seeking enough power to sustain the magical apparitions of her dead friends. War is calling, and the course of history lies in their hands, whether they like it or not.

Now, after loving the first two instalments in Schulz’s debut series, A King’s Radiance and The Sun Prince, I had almost unfairly high expectations going into Soul Cage. And somehow, he blew them all out of the water with ease. I mean, first a sun-based magic system and now a soul-based magic system that comes at the price of your sanity and eventually your life… where does this man’s imagination end?!

Still, a cool magic system does not immediately make a good story, and the premise of Soul Cage could easily have floundered in the hands of a lesser author. But fortunately, Schulz executes his vision with masterful skill. Through the eyes of these three wildly different protagonists, we are organically introduced to both the most awe-inspiring wonders and terrifying horrors of this world and the magic system, resulting in an almost uncomfortably intimate approach to the storytelling that kept me in a chokehold from start to finish.

Unlike many other multi-POV fantasies, Soul Cage doesn’t feature a single uninteresting perspective. Every time I thought I enjoyed one of them over the others, Schulz would throw another exciting twist or turn my way which made me reassess my opinions and feelings all over again. Ultimately, I think Will was the most endearing and compelling character for me, and I loved how authentically his neurodivergence was written into the story without making it his entire personality. But there was truly also so much to dig into with Myddrin and Tvora (and her unconventional animal companions), as they are both haunted by their pasts and have to face some brutal inner demons.  

These characters all have their own unique virtues and vices, and I especially enjoyed how Schulz didn’t shy away from exploring the darker realms of the human mind through their harrowing journeys. See, carrying more souls might mean being more powerful, but the haunting voices of the dead’s souls add a psychological weight that not many can handle for long without breaking. Themes of mental health, loss, the daily battle of addiction, neurodivergence, corruption, morality, and faith are beautifully woven into the narrative, adding thought-provoking layers of nuance and complexity that you can ponder on for days to come.

And what’s more, all that rich character work and deep themework doesn’t even come at the cost of an absolutely riveting and pulse-pounding plot. Yes, there are plenty of moments of introspection and quiet internal battles, but Soul Cage features just as many epic and cinematic action sequences where the cool-factor just jumps through the roof. Bloody murder, souls violently slamming into bodies, people crumbling under the mental weight of carrying their new-found power, and soul-fueled beastly apparitions (image-hawks, bears, and panthers, anyone?) joining the fights; each new turn of the page just filled me with new levels of shock and wonder.

There were maybe a couple of chapters in the middle section where the pacing felt a bit tedious, but at the same time I also really appreciated that these characters’ development wasn’t rushed. Each of their individual arcs felt realistically messy and frustrating, which only made their journeys more satisfying and powerful to me. Plus, even when the pacing slowed down a bit, there was still always a looming sense of dread and inescapable tension from all the political scheming and unravelling of twisted lore and history, which kept me turning the pages without me even noticing it.

Schulz has truly outdone himself with Soul Cage, and I honestly think he deserves to be up there with the greats of the genre. If you are not afraid to dive into a story that will challenge you mentally and emotionally, while also filling you with a deep sense of escapist wonder and suspense, then you have to check out this refreshingly diverse and beautifully character-driven dark fantasy. What a wild ride, I need more!

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Soul Cage is scheduled for release on 28 May, 2024.

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Soul Cage

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

Leave a Reply