I must confess that I didn’t have high expectations for Rob Blackwell’s debut novel. I’m not sure why, maybe it was the fact I’m not normally into fantasy or romance, and this book promised to mix both genres, along with some mystery and suspense. Whatever the reason for my apprehension though, boy was I wrong to doubt. Book One of the Sanheim Chronicles is a brilliantly plotted roller coaster read, and I loved every page of it.
The story is gripping from the off, drawing you in to a rich and believable world. But this isn’t any old world, there’s a heavy dose of fantasy lurking behind the scenes. Indeed reading A Soul To Steal is a bit like watching the movie From Dusk ‘Til Dawn; it starts out as one kind story and ends up as something quite different, although the transition is more subtle than in Tarantino’s classic film.
The early part of the book leads us to believe we are dealing with a classic whodunnit. As we progress, it becomes clear there’s something more going on. The deeper we delve, the more pronounced the genre switch becomes.
It’s a risky strategy for a writer to cross traditional boundaries in this way, few manage to pull it off. Crossing into fantasy gives an author an easy out to explain the mystery element. Blackwell doesn’t cop out though, he actually pulls off the stunt, and with some flair.
The novel excels both as a traditional mystery and as a supernatural thriller, throwing in a strong romantic element to boot. The mystery element will keep you guessing almost to the end. The fantasy scenes add an extra dimension. The romance draws you closer to the already well sketched characters.
Indeed the reason the strange genre pot pourri works so well is the characters are so strong and well developed. We care about them immediately. The two protagonists are journalists, as is Blackwell himself. When authors write about their own profession it can go a few ways. Sometimes it comes out as an impenetrable and often rant fuelled diatribe. Sometimes the result is a sleep inducing study of the metier, a love letter to work. And occasionally, all too rarely, it creates a rich and believable world, with just enough detail to fully transport the reader to this other place, but without becoming studious, or indeed tedious (think Kathy Riechs). Fortunately A Soul to Steal falls into this minority. The novel is written with panache, and is a proper page turner (or rather, screen-tapper – we’re Shelfless).
A Soul To Steal is availble on Kindle here.