Book Review: Soul Awakened, by Jean Murray

266196_508596702507155_238880954_oSoul Awakened (Key to the Cursed #2)
By Jean Murray
Crescent Moon Press, January 2013

Love for Blood or Honor

Kendra, and Egyptologist and demi-god in waiting, is the key to unlocking Bakari, the Egyptian God of Death, from his cursed slumber. Desperate to free him, she inadvertently binds herself to the god with a spell that only death will undo. To save Bakari from himself, she may have to sacrifice her innocence, and possibly her soul, before he becomes his family’s worst enemy.

Haunted by Sins of the Past

Bakari awakens to a world at war and a beautiful woman who has tethered his soul to hers. In the wake of his self-destruction, Kendra is his only hope of salvation, but another has vowed to keep Bakari from the one thing he craves most—his Parvana. His butterfly.

Soul Awakened opens with a black scorpion in the desert. It is night, so the little assassin blends into his surroundings as he waits patiently for an opportunity to strike.

The scorpion is the mark of Bakari, the God of Death, missing five long years from his post at the gates of the Underworld. Tortured by a sadist and left for long stretches confined in the dark, Bakari is little more than a wounded animal when Kendra Carrigan releases him from his sarcophagus. He cannot tell what is real from what is nightmare, and he still retains the power to suck the life out of anyone in his vicinity. It’s a lethal combination that costs three of Aaru’s guardians their lives and leads Bakari’s family to keep him confined in a cell until they can figure out what to do with him.

Kendra, a gentle-hearted Egyptologist, finds the treatment of Bakari appalling. She believes that he’s been confined in the dark, so keeping him locked in the basement seems cruel. If that had been the extent of his torture, he’d probably have been all right. Over the years, however, he was periodically released to eat, a ritual that entailed the goddess Kepi raping him before feeding him her own rotten blood.

Jean Murray tells Bakari’s captivity story in flashes, followed by episodes of disgust and guilt often experienced by sexual assault victims. Bakari hates the woman who tortured him, but he also feels it’s justice of sorts for the deeds of his previously decadent life. He desire for death is kept at bay only by a sense of obligation to Kendra, whose live became blood-bound to his during the spell she performed to free him. His father, Asar, forgives but doesn’t miss an opportunity for tough love and tosses Bakari into the warrior village under the command of his brother, Bomari, who would get along fabulously with the likes of XO Tigh from Battlestar Galactica and the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket. The guy has been jealous of his pampered brother for millennia. Bomari’s attempts to humiliate Bakari by assigning menial tasks, like polishing ALL of the garrison’s weapons, backfires when Bakari actually enjoys the tasks. It gives him time to think about how much his life sucks.

Having freed Bakari, Kendra has to find something else to occupy her time, so she turns to crime solving. There is a traitor in Aaru, a third party to Bakari’s kidnapping and the assassination attempt on Asar’s life (from Book 1), and she’s determined to figure out who it is. (Remember the scorpion metaphor from the prologue.) Doing so means asking Bakari exactly how the armed and dangerous God of Death was subdued and taken from his post at the gates of the Underworld. Talking to Bakari means going to the warrior village and defying Bomari’s orders to stay away from his unstable, self-centered brother for her own good. Of course, Kendra’s disobeyed Bomari’s instructions before, which is how Bakari got out of his sarcophagus in the first place.

Murray delicately executes Bakari’s catharsis and weaves it into the role reversal that slowly takes place between him and his brother. Into this, she also stitches—in both detail and timing—an awkward romance between Kendra, a sexually frustrated virgin, and the feuding brothers, both of whom want her but know they don’t deserve her.

I enjoyed Soul Awakened. It is a confident step forward Soul Reborn, the opening story of Key to the Cursed, which I felt was weighed down a bit by the necessary reven story arc. Soul Awakened is a much narrower story, which allowed Murry more pages for her characters to develop and interact. I am very much looking forward to the continuation of Bomari’s story in Soul Unbound, (Key to the Cursed #3).

Stars: ★★★★★

I was given an advance copy of the book by the author.

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