Review: Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller

Borrowed Souls by Chelsea Mueller (Soul Charmer #1)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Talos on May 2, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Callie Delgado always puts family first, and unfortunately her brother knows it.

  

Renting souls is a dirty business, one Callie Delgado would sooner pretend doesn’t exist at all. But when her brother’s drug debts come due and the collectors start making good on their threats, Callie has no choice but to work for Gem City’s notorious Soul Charmer to save his skin…maybe at the cost of her own soul.

Creating a new urban fantasy series that can stand out in the crowd is no easy feat, but with BORROWED SOULS Chelsea Mueller proves that she’s up to the task. She recognizes that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but rather breathe new life into genre conventions and shed some of the archetypical baggage of urban fantasy. The creative yet familiar-feeling world building, a distinct desert city setting, and an atypical heroine, BORROWED SOULS will appeal to long-time fans looking for something a bit different and skeptics alike. It’s almost like Mueller’s an expert who’s been reviewing urban fantasy for years…

The key to any successful urban fantasy is a compelling protagonist, and Callie certainly fits the bill. Unlike many urban fantasy characters, much of the conflict in Callie’s life is internal rather than external. Sure, she encounters bad guys and deals with magic, but the real demons in BORROWED SOULS are her own emotional issues. Thanks to her manipulative con artist mother and her brother Josh’s proclivity for using her, Callie has a boatload of hangups and seriously low self-esteem. Yet she retains a kind of grim practicality that I really admire, choosing to get on with life as if it’s just another day even when she’s compromising everything she believes in. Her vulnerability is refreshing, and I think anyone who’s had addicts or manipulative personalities in their lives will find Callie incredibly relatable.

While she may not be a devout Cortean Catholic like most of Gem City, Callie knows that messing with soul magic is risky business. The freedom from divine consequences that it offers people makes them do selfish, crazy, dangerous things. Renting a soul enables the renter to take another soul into their body, a soul that will bear the impurities that would normally fall on their own soul as a result of sin. Adultery? Armed robbery? Murder? All of it’s possible, because it also interferes with forensic evidence gathering, rendering the cops useless. Soul magic means can do it all with no repercussions…so long as you pay the Soul Charmer and return his souls on time. If you don’t, he’ll send his enforcer Derek to collect the merchandise – and he won’t be gentle about it.

With Callie forced to work as Derek’s partner to earn credit for a soul, she falls deeper into the world of soul magic almost without noticing. The Soul Charmer will take back the magic he gave her when the job’s done, won’t he? Will he give Callie a soul that’ll do the trick for the risky job she’s been given in exchange for Josh’s safe return? And will Callie and Derek’s fledgling romance survive the dark deeds she plans to commit? One thing’s for sure, Callie’s life will never be the same, even if she does get Josh back.

I was completely charmed by BORROWED SOULS, and I haven’t been this excited about a new traditional urban fantasy series in a long time. Congratulations to Chelsea Mueller, she’s got a hit on her hands!

Do you plan to read BORROWED SOULS? What’s your favourite urban fantasy series? Let me know in the comments!

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  • I haven’t had much luck with the Urban Fantasy genre in the last years, however this book sounds actually pretty good and interesting. I think I will give it a try.

    • I know what you mean, there are a lot of subpar urban fantasy series beginners out there! Personally I think this is the strongest one I’ve read in ages – definitely recommend it. 🙂

  • It is totes on my wishlist now

  • Greg Hill

    First I totally love that cover. And the premise just seems so unique. Granted I’m not an expert in urban fantasy but as someone always looking for a fresh take this sounds really good. Plus I like the sound of Callie too, vulnerable but also willing to do what she has to. Sounds great!

    • I know, isn’t it awesome?! The flask in her pocket is a great touch, especially once you’ve read the book. Callie is a great protagonist and her pragmatism made me love her – empathizing with her was just the icing on the cake. 🙂

  • Cool. Now that you are done you can send your copy to me!

    • HA! I got a digital copy, but I bet the author would send you a print copy since you’re in the US.

  • I started reading this (although I was in the middle of another book) and I’m intrigued by the idea of souls borrowing. It hooked me, and I can’t wait to get back to it! Glad you loved it!

    • I was totally hooked by this one two! I had to put it down to go to work and I was super annoyed about it, haha. Can’t wait to hear your take on this one, Tammy!

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    It’s true that this genre does have some fixed landmarks, but it’s also true that much depends on the way the writer uses them, and in this case it would seem that this novel enjoys a breath of fresh air. Moreover, I like the idea of the main character being the victim of an exploitative family rather than the usual nightmares, dark thoughts and assorted demons… 😀

    • Yeah, Mueller does a great job adding nuance and her own flair to some standard conventions of the sub-genre. The family dynamics in this one were SO well done, I felt everything Callie felt and despite how despicable they were I still understood why Callie kept going back to her mom and brother!

  • Everyone I know who has read this has enjoyed it. I think I will be bumping this one from “might read if I have time” to “must read for May” 🙂

    • Yay! I’m very interested in your take on this one, I think it’s going to be on a lot of favourites lists this year. 🙂

  • Colour me intrigued by your description of the world building here, especially about your description given of her breathing new life into conventions of the genre — that’s not an easy feat given anything goes in urban fantasy in a way. I like Callie too — her vulnerability and her practicality — makes for an interesting combination for a character and one you can genuinely care about you know?

    • The world building was awesome, I especially loved all the finer details of soul collecting and soul magic in general. Calle is an awesome protagonist, and I know exactly what you mean – it’s a lot easier to care about a character who isn’t constantly putting on a tough face!

  • Well, I wish I had heard of this book sooner it sounds awesome! You know a book can go either way when an author knows the genre well and I’m glad to see it meant a positive outcome on this one. I love the idea of soul magic, it sounds like a really original take on things. i’ll have to see if I can get ahold of this and see what I think.

    • Hmm maybe I should start doing quarterly TBRs or something, that way I can spread the news about these kinds of books! Oh man, it was so cool reading a book by another blogger, especially one I’ve admired. Thank goodness the book was great, otherwise that’d be awkward! Haha. You’ll have to let me know what you think if you pick it up!

  • This sounds really cool! I haven’t read much urban fantasy, so I really need to get on that.

    • You do! Hahaha. This one is a great place to start, and I think you’d quite like the Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronvitch too! 🙂

  • Karen

    I haven’t read a good UF in years. I’ll have to give this one a try.

    For What It’s Worth

    • This is one of the best UF debuts I’ve read in years! Definitely a good one to try if you want to dip your toes back in. 🙂

  • I love urban fantasy but have been avoiding a lot of the books I’ve come across because I’ve also found it harder and harder to find anything that stands out. So I may have to check this one out! The premise sounds really unique, and I love the sound of the MC. Gonna put it on my TBR, great review!

    • Solidarity, becauseI’ve been having the same issue! This one has a familiar feel to it but it’s definitely a standout, with lots of cool twists. Hooray, hopefully you get the chance to pick this one up soon Kristen!

  • That cover is fantastic, a five star for a urban fantasy definitely has my interest piqued! Great Review!

    • It’s such a good cover! Which is especially awesome for a debut author writing UF. Thanks, Tori!

  • Renting souls… what an interesting concept. I’ve not read many urban fantasy novels, but the idea definitely seems like an urban fantasy one. 😀 Callie sounds like a complex yet likable character, and Derek sounds like a great foil to her. Hopefully there will be more romance, eh? 😀 I’m glad you enjoyed this book, Danya!

    Have a fantastic week. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • I know, I was intrigued as soon as I heard about it! Back in the day urban fantasy was my drug of choice (much like historical fantasy these days, haha) but I burned out on it. Books like this one make me excited about it again, though! OMG the romance was to die for!!! You would totally swoon over Derek: he’s gruff and somewhat macho but also respectful and a good communicator. *happy sigh*

      Thanks Alyssa, you too! 😀

  • That’s quite an interesting concept..renting souls I mean..I like the sound of Callie but her brother sure sounds like a jerk! I started off with Urban Fantasy when I first started reading YA but find many to be cliched! So happy to see something different! Great review Danya 🙂

    • Isn’t it, though? I was hooked by the magic system right away. Callie’s brother is *definitely* a jerk, but that’s what made their relationship so interesting I think. In my opinion YA urban fantasy is more cliche than adult ones on the whole, but this one is certainly one of the best I’ve read recently!

  • Lynn Williams

    I’m totally the odd one out for this one. It just didn’t really work as well for me. I liked the concept, I thought it was entertaining but I just had things that bothered me. I think your review is great though and shines a different light on Callie – I just found her brother so obnoxious, obviously she’s going to help him out but he was such an ingrate.
    Lynn 😀

    • Oh nooooo! What a bummer. At least we agree that the concept is great, though. The whole idea of renting souls is awesome. Josh was terrible, it’s true. Maybe I just have a different perspective on their relationship because I’ve had people just like him in my life (well, not quite as bad but pretty close). I’m really hoping that he’ll become a more nuanced character in the second book!

  • Well! This sounds amazing. I’ll pick it up when I’m craving some good UF (probably after Aaron’s next book leaves me with a book hangover). Loved your review, your 5-star reviews always make me want to buy more books. 😀

    • I absolutely loved it! Some people were annoyed by Callie’s slightly pushover nature when it comes to her family, but from personal experience I totally get why she let them walk all over her. If you ignore her love interest’s use of the word “doll” as an endearment (ugh) this was a perfect read for me.

      Hooray!!! That’s what I like to hear. 😁

  • This sounds fantastic! I especially like the sound of Callie. As you say, connecting with the protagonist is the single most important thing and it is the thing that often trips me up with UF. Callie sounds refreshing and with the addition of the intriguing borrow-soul-be-super-naughty idea I think this may need to go towards the top of my TBR.