Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Talos on May 2, 2017
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.She’s emptied her savings, lost work, and spilled countless tears trying to keep him out of trouble, but now he’s in deeper than ever, and his debt is on Callie’s head. She’s given a choice: do some dirty work for the mob, or have her brother returned to her in tiny pieces.
Renting souls is big business for the religious population of Gem City. Those looking to take part in immoral—or even illegal—activity can borrow someone else’s soul, for a price, and sin without consequence.
To save her brother, Callie needs a borrowed soul, but she doesn’t have anywhere near the money to pay for it. The slimy Soul Charmer is willing to barter, but accepting his offer will force Callie into a dangerous world of magic she isn’t ready for.
With the help of the guarded but undeniably attractive Derek—whose allegiance to the Charmer wavers as his connection to Callie grows—she’ll have to walk a tight line, avoid pissing off the bad guys, all while struggling to determine what her loyalty to her family’s really worth.
Losing her brother isn’t an option. Losing her soul? Maybe.
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!