An ambitious book with complex world building, I nearly gave up on Iron Soul because I felt like it was too much for one story. But, I stuck with it and really enjoyed the ending. Here’s just a taste of this book: there’s multiple worlds in which the dead spend their after lives that all have their own sets of immortal (sort of) warriors each with their own unique magic system, the struggles of the dead stuck on Earth, the plight of the dead who don’t know that they’re dead, the living who have no faith and no where to go after they die, the spaces between the worlds that are filled with monsters, a sophisticated system of hierarchy and trade among souls, a process of augmentation of powers among the dead, souls trapped in dolls, animal spirits and soul bonding…
That’s all in addition to the basic story line- Aldus fights spectres and saves lost souls, he is called a Ferryman. While out on duty, he finds a powerful soul bound to Earth, whose name is Robert. Together, with a Jewish warrior named Benjamin, an ancient animal spirit, and an unlikely wandering soul who is bound in an unexpected container, Aldus and Robert will face one of the greatest threats that the living and immortal worlds have ever known- a mad man who will stop at nothing to allow spectres (monstrous spirits) to enter the world and prey on the living. Like I said, this is very ambitious and well-conceived novel but I felt that the book, like Robert in his earth bound chains, struggles under the huge weight of so many story elements.
The characterizations were awesome though:
“Aldus Vorkis was an old soul. To an elder Ferryman of his caliber there were ways, there were means, there were paths, and therein lay the answers for every question worth answering if people could only be bothered to take the time and look.” loc 78, ebook. Aldus makes an excellent mentor figure.
Robert was my favorite character: “Being an Iron Soul is not just about raw power, Robert. You were isolated from any true, intelligent contact whatsoever for two hundred years, boy, and yet I have no doubt that you are psychologically the same now as when you still lived. An Iron Soul has the power to not only face mighty forces on the same footing, but to also endure trials that would break a normal man’s spirit.” loc 1600, ebook.
This story may not appeal to atheists as atheists are written as clueless wanderers who don’t belong in any after life and are gathered up and shunted to the Christian world out of pity. Liberal readers may also take exception as an abortion clinic is depicted as the spawn point for countless spectres and the greatest of all evils on Earth. Granted, Floyd never uses the world “abortion” but it is clear what he’s talking about. But, on the other hand, this book may appeal to readers because of those very reasons. So, my friends, choose whatever option is appropriate for you. As I said, I was tripping over the sheer amount of information contained in this book and am rarely offended by anything that I read, but I noted it because it could potentially trigger people with strong opinions about these topics one way or another.
Also, I noticed that the Christian and Jewish after lives are shown but no Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu worlds… yet. They’re hinted at certainly and this is the first book in a series, so maybe Floyd is saving them for later.
This all sounds far more negative than I was intending this review to be. As I said, the ending packs quite a punch (in more ways than one) and if you can wind your way through this book, there are rewards to be found. I very much enjoyed the character development, the relationships between the characters, and Robert’s awesome ride (which I will not detail here as it is one of the best parts of Iron Soul in my opinion). Recommended for readers who enjoy complex science fiction/fantasy and truly unique concepts.
Thank you to NetGalley and North Loop Books for a digital advance reader’s copy of this book! And, thank you for reading!