Saturday, July 7, 2012

Review: My Soul To Steal, by Rachel Vincent

This post, like the one for My Soul To Keep, was part of the Soul Screams Reading Challenge hosted by Rachel on fiktshun. I am reposting all my reviews from the channel here before I review Before I Wake, the latest intallment of the series.
I really have a lot to say about My Soul To Steal, so the following will be kind of a mixture between a review and my personal thoughts and might contain slight spoilers.

Blurb from the back of the book:
Trying to work things out with Nash – her maybe boyfriend – is hard enough for Kaylee Cavanaugh. She can’t just pretend nothing happened. But “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe their relationship when his ex-girlfriend transfers to their school, determined to take Nash back.
See, Sabine isn’t just an ordinary girl. She’s a mara, the living personification of a nightmare. She can read people’s fears – and craft them into nightmares while her victims sleep. Feeding from human fear is how she survives.
And Sabine isn’t above scaring Kaylee and the entire school to death to get whatever – and whoever she wants.

Wow. This series keeps getting better with every book! MSTS continues two weeks after MSTK ended. Nash returns to school after the suffering through withdrawal to get clear of Demon’s breath, but he is still struggling and suffering. Kaylee is suffering too – her heart wants him back, but her head knows it would be unwise to do it. After all he did (lie to her, let a hellion possess her body in her sleep without telling her about it, the list continues) she just cannot trust him as she used to. It’s hard to determine to what extent his behavior was altered by the drug and which parts of it were hidden traits in his character that just came to the front when he was in a low spot.

However, the question whether or not she can let go of Nash becomes more urgent when his ex and first great love, Sabine, suddenly shows up at their school and wants to pick up right where they left off about two years ago. Sabine is everything Kaylee is not: confident, openly sexy, experienced, devious, with a strong dark streak not unsimilar to Nash’s own. No wonder Kaylee is worried – Sabine makes absolutely no secret of her intentions. And, again, Nash is very reluctant to tell her the truth: Sabine is not human but a mara, a species that reads people’s fears, weaves them into nightmares, and feeds from those while sitting on her victim’s chest in astral form. I loved the ‘sitting on the victim’s chest’ part – it reminds me of one of my favorite paintings by Henry Fuseli – Der Nachtmahr. See that goblin sitting on her, literally possessing her? (possedere (Latin) = literally to sit on, to possess, to own)

Sabine is visiting Kaylee in her sleep and playing on her worst insecurities, she spends lots of time with Nash, and she is more than ready to fill the position Kaylee (sort of) vacated. Basically, as a reader, she gives you every reason to hate her. And I did, sometimes. However, I had also ‘met’ her before I read this book, in a short story called ‘Fearless’ that appeared in the ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ anthology edited by Trisha Telep. Knowing Sabine’s past somewhat made me like her more. While she might be a pest for Kaylee, she is also a very strong female character. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, and she’s been through a lot. Behind the tough fa├žade, she is also insecure and very alone – she does not really have anyone apart from Nash, and they technically never broke up before she had to go to a halfway house and Nash and his mum left after Tod’s death. Bottom line: lots of antagonism and anxiety going on.

Alongside all that teenage drama, there’s another problem: teachers have been dying while taking a nap at school. And since Sabine feeds from fear, isn’t it an understandable conclusion on Kaylee’s part that she’s the one scaring them to death while she feeds? Not quite it, though. Kaylee has to accept that she’s more jealous and biased than she would like, for the problem is, once more, Avari. The hellion has not given up on his designs for her, and he has gotten himself some powerful Netherworld back-up. Now Kaylee has to fear being possessed in her sleep – again – apart from just getting nightmare visits from Sabine. Also her dad and Alec come into the firing line again, as well as Emma. Apparently, the Netherworld-version of their school has become a new assembly ground for powerful hellions, and they have plans for both Kaylee and Sabine…

Okay, time to wrap it up: I love both Kaylee and Sabine. Not quite sure about Nash. I also really really like Tod, especially after reading the ‘Reaper’ novella. Kaylee spends a lot of time with him. They get on. Which opens a world of new possibilities to solve the Nash drama. Needless to say, after finishing My Soul To Steal, I can’t wait to get started on the If I Die copy beckoning to me from my shelf. My Soul To Steal is an amazing read with great twists. It’s about dealing with the consequences of your actions, about figuring out what you want and how to fight for it – or realizing when it is time to give it up, no matter how much that might hurt.

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