|A Necklace of Souls is R. L. (Rachel)
Stedmans first novel there is a sequel on the way, which for this reviewer is
very pleasing to note and has aimed true for the YA adventure market.
Necklace of Souls tells the story of Dana, princess in the Kingdom of the
Rose, and Will newly orphaned bakers son and fresh to the kingdom (it is where his
relatives live). Will gets apprenticed to the castle kitchen and eventually crosses path
with the restless and fractious Dana. Dana is being trained to be a young lady, but would
rather be anything but. Will is used as a foil to escape that training as much as
This is not a tale of star crossed young love thwarted by social station and unkind
circumstance, though by the end of the book romance is hinted. No; the Kingdom of the Rose
has attracted the attention of a powerful magician who has sensed something in the kingdom
he wants. What that something is he doesnt know, but he wants it nonetheless. The
kingdom is guarded by some powerful magic aided by a guardian who wears a necklace of the
spirits of the previous guardians. But that necklace extracts a price and Dana has
discovered that she is to be the next guardian a frightening prospect as she is
niece to the current necklace wearer, whom she loves dearly, and can see the damage the
necklace is causing and does not relish the prospect.
In A Necklace of Souls Ms Stedman has created a believable
world peopled with sympathetic characters that are true to their motivations. She does not
over play the magic nor rely on coincidence.
This was a book that pleads for a sequel as there is obviously more of the story to
- Simon Litten
Dana is a young princess in the Kingdom of the Rose. This large island kingdom is
protected and hidden by magic. Will is an orphan sent to live in this kingdom with his
aunt and her family. Dana and Will eventually meet, and end up training together, for the
island is under threat from outsiders with powerful magic. Sounds standard but it is not.
It has a bit extra going for it, and I felt it in the writing as I began reading; that
sense of being drawn into the story.
The story is gradually revealed from the point of view of Dana as a princess growing up
with a duty to her land, and to a lesser extent Will, as the foreigner to this kingdom. It
is the gradual unfolding of the magic of this kingdom, Danas family heritage, and
the development of Dana and Wills relationship that is the core to this story. It is
close to the first time in reading fantasy that Ive seen two children who do have
plenty of natural talent - have to seriously train hard and study hard for some years to
fully develop their potential. It doesnt "just happen" with a little
casual training tossed in on the way, or allocated into the background. The training
occurs upfront, and I think this is a good reality in a fantasy.
The other thing that impressed me was the mixture of technology and flavour of magic
that was used. It is not just the standard pseudo-medieval European setting, even if that
is used as the base. It is very international in its choice of magic, people and places.
Time goes quickly as the reader sees snippets of important events and incidents in the
life of Dana and Will as they both reach adulthood, which is 16 in this kingdom. This
spares the reader from a lot of mundane detail that would not have served the
progression of the story. I liked the way only the relevant bits were shown, and found
myself re-reading earlier pages of the story as more was revealed.
There is a romance developing as a side story but nothing to put YA readers off.
Extremely low on "angst" too, which I think is a big positive in a YA story.
Danas voice is very modern, which should work with the target audience. Wills
life starts in a more traditional setting, and it is here that the reader gets an
appreciation of what we have in the 21st century. It is these subtle touches
that make this book discreetly different from a standard fantasy.
It progresses at a steady pace and ends at a suitable point but there is clearly more
to be told. No cliff hangers. I hope to see the sequel as I thought this was a good first
book by the author with some fairly original and atypical ideas.
- June Young