Title: Quaking Soul (Hidden Mythics #1)
Author: Jennifer M. Zeiger
Publication date: November 30, 2020
One Sentence Summary: When young dryad Na’rina takes her mother’s place at a meeting with other mythical creatures, a banished wer-im warns them humans are capturing mythical creatures, and when her mother turns up missing, it’s up to Na’rina and the wer-im to find her and save the mythical world.
Quaking Soul tells the story of a young dryad trying to show she’s ready to be the next Queen of the Dryads, as well as humans finding out mythical creatures exist and wanting to study them. This is a wonderful story of two worlds colliding and one dryad’s journey to learning more about the wider world and who she is. While not exceptionally layered and complex as it’s meant to appeal to a wide audience, it definitely has something to offer to everyone and has some excellent twists that really make for a stand out ending. I loved how everything about this book really worked hand in hand together to create an amazing story with a spectacular world and wonderful characters I want to spend more time with. The world building really shines in this novel, but it’s just one part of what makes Quaking Soul an exceptional read.
As future leader of the dryads, Na’rina takes her mother’s place at an impromptu meeting called by another mystic creature. The banished wer-im come with a warning that humans are essentially kidnapping mythical creatures. When Na’rina’s own mother turns up missing, she has no choice but to team up with the wer-im.
Together, they learn to trust and work together while working to figure out what the humans want the mythic creatures for. But there are deeper rumblings in the mythic world, ones that have ties to Na’rina and her family.
This review has been a long time coming. I read this over a year ago, but am still stumped at how to properly review a book written by a wonderful blogging friend, not to mention the gorgeous book itself. It’s listed as YA, which is not a genre I enjoy, but I felt Quaking Soul straddled everything from upper MG all the way to adult. It’s clean enough for younger audiences, but offers enough complexity for older readers. One of my favorite things about this book was that it really felt like it’s for everyone. There’s obviously the fantasy, but also a bit of mystery, a bit of family history, and a bit of romance. I also adored the rich natural world introduced to the reader. It’s extraordinarily detailed without being overwhelming and so perfectly captured the relationship between the mythical creatures and nature. But the characters are also not to be missed. Na’rina is a wonderful dryad full of innocence and the desire to do what she must. I loved watching her grow over the course of the story, and I certainly wouldn’t mind having her abilities.
I have to start with the world building because it’s one of the defining things about this book to me. Forests are one my favorite settings in a fantasy novel, and Quaking Soul just pushed the envelope with what I want and need in it. I’m still utterly amazing at how incredible, detailed, and lush the world is. A mythical world intertwined with our own, it really brings the natural world to the forefront. It’s gorgeous and so reverent. I absolutely loved that trees weren’t just referred to as trees, but were oaks, pines, spruces, etc. Every tree felt unique, and it’s so incredibly fitting as Na’rina is a dryad, a wood spirit. I’m just left speechless at how amazing the world is, how detailed without being too much, how it’s just naturally woven in. I love books with strong world building, and this is one of the strongest I’ve ever read. Opening up the book felt very much like stepping out into nature. Then there’s the magic. It felt both powerful and subtle and I loved that it was essentially a living thing’s life energy. There were limits, but also felt like a powerful thing to me.
Not to be outdone are the characters. Na’rina is the star of this book, and she really shines. The next Queen of the Drayds, she wants to prove to her mother and the Dryad Council that she’s ready. Of course, she’s a bit more innocent and naive than she thinks, but, essentially left on her own after the failed meeting of mythics, she has no choice but to figure out what to do, and to grow from it. I love that, thinking back, she felt so innocent and almost child-like at the beginning, but definitely felt more like a force by the end. This is as much her journey as it is a story of figuring out why humans have been capturing mythic creatures. She’s helped along by some incredible characters, and must learn to trust, to lead. I felt her growth was both subtle and powerful. There aren’t any annoying leaps and bounds, but, instead, quiet shifts that show her potential and readiness so who she is at the end makes complete sense. Then there’s Icarus, the wer-im Na’rina ends up working closely with. Even though he’s a banished wer-im, I adored him from the start. I always got the feeling of there being something more about him, and reading his relationship with Na’rina was so much fun. He’s older and more experienced than Na’rina, providing another side of the story, but he’s so protective of her and it’s so sweet.
Quaking Soul offers a story of mythic creatures and humans. Our worlds overlap, and we’re not supposed to know about theirs. But someone finds out and wants to learn more, to experiment. It’s horrifying and the fear from the mythical creatures was palpable. I really enjoyed how the two worlds collided, in more than one way. I also loved how layered it ended up being and how it all pulled together for an incredible ending. If anything, I wish there had been a bit more complexity, but Quaking Soul is meant to appeal to a wide audience. I did really enjoy the ending, when revelations and history are revealed, and it really made everything come together so beautifully I didn’t even want more layers. In some ways it felt like it wrapped up just a little too neatly, but it was also logical, tied up the story lines, and was consistent with the rest of the story.
Quaking Soul really shines when it comes to the world building, but it also provides an incredible backdrop that also ties into the story at hand and the characters themselves. I loved how they were all inextricably tied together to create a rich story. Everything about it was extremely well-executed and offered an extraordinarily smooth reading experience, making it a huge pleasure to read and immerse myself in it. The story moves without becoming bogged down, but also avoids being too quick. The detailed world and exceptional world building felt like it really paced the story, bringing in more details to give the characters and reader a chance to breathe and enough action to keep the reader’s attention and the pages flipping.
Overall, Quaking Soul is the kind of story that can and will appeal to a wide audience. It definitely has something to offer everyone, including a bit of mystery and a bit of romance. Everything about it works really well together and I loved that nothing felt like it came out of left field. The story builds and the characters grow naturally. The world building really shone for me, but everything about it was extremely well-done.
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