Book Review: Wilding Souls – Ana Cristina Caelen

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Wilding Souls is a wonderful example of how high fantasy can go deeper than magic and legendary creatures. It can look at existential questions in unique ways, which is what Ana Cristina Caelen delivers.

The book starts with Aine and Bartho, a loving couple who have each “birthed” other selves—parallel but not always human aspects of the same souls. When Aine discovers her dragon self, their journey spirals into a beautiful chaos.

Let’s look at this novel’s key features more closely.

Fascinating Premise

The foundation of Wilding Souls is quite intricate. To begin with, the birthing of selves is widespread in their world, once inhabited by fae, and others. So, they’re not the only characters discovering exciting sides to themselves.

Also, Aine is a dream-weaver, able to see and interpret people’s dreams. At the same time, she shares a soul with a monk, hunter, siren-like oracle, and dragon—for starters.

Bartho is a herbalist with a talent for reading tea leaves. His soul companion is a grand oak tree, whose only verbal communication is, “Tum, tum.”

In addition to such fantastical and precious details, the story’s growing web of dreams, selves, and worlds makes it an eye-opening read.

Philosophical Fantasy

Apart from highly imaginative, Wilding Souls is deeply philosophical. It poses lots of “What if” questions and has an array of characters and situations break them down. This makes you engage with the topics more closely.

The downside is that sometimes the philosophy takes over the storytelling. These bubbles of ideas and discussions are thought-provoking, but they also slow the pace down and break immersion.

Explores a Range of Interesting Topics

If you don’t mind occasional dips in pace, this book has plenty of themes to sink your teeth into. Its core ideas, however, are:

  • Identity
  • Individuality
  • Fluidity
  • The soul
  • Language

Great Characters

Something that makes Wilding Souls extra special is its character development. From the start, Aine and Bartho are intriguing and relatable, their relationship very moving.

As the point of view shifts from them to their individual selves, we explore the essence of their souls, while stepping into the “shoes” of unique individuals and creatures.

Other characters drawn into the couple’s journey are just as interesting and well fleshed out.

Skilled Writing Style

As well as strong character development, you can look forward to a complex but graceful narrative. That said, the story’s overall leisurely pace makes it lose tension, especially in key exciting moments.

Wilding Souls makes up for that with a mind-bending and labyrinthine plot, very ampt considering the concept of labyrinths and journeys are among the themes it touches on.

And none of this makes it hard to read. On the contrary, Caelen’s writing style is so smooth and rich that you enjoy every moment, whether quiet or thrilling.

Conclusion

Wilding Souls is a welcoming addition to special high fantasy. It stimulates your heart and mind, while amusing you with very imaginative and engaging characters and themes.

If you enjoy authors like Phillip Pullman, you should grab this book next. It’s a particular must-read for introverts, artists, philosophers, and linguists.

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Author: Electra Nanou

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