by Miranda Shanklin3 out of 5
It has been many lifetimes since the cycle began.
The cycle that still haunts Annisa Lawson.
A spell cast in desperation to help, which only caused heartache.
Now, Annisa has found her way out of the varying repeats of her past; only to bring more danger to herself, and those around her. Now she must learn to survive with the help of her friends: Chase, Penelope, and Landon have all gone through each life cycle with Annisa. Sometimes helping, sometimes hindering. Now that Annisa has broken the cycle of their collective punishment, she finds that she needs her friends more than ever to keep their enemies, known, and unknown, at bay. As the group of friends learn of their souls' journeys through their many life cycles, they must also learn to control the magick they have discovered within themselves and each other, in order to defeat the most feared assassin in their world.
Annisa is living a perfect life, as head cheerleader, and the captain of the football team as her boyfriend. But something seems to be missing. Something that becomes apparent when Chase and his sister move in next door; something that will change everything she thought she knew about herself.
I bought the book as part of the Author Promo Co-op's May read (so let's pretend it's still May - shush).
It follows the story of Annisa as she meets Chase and Penelope for the first time, but immediately feels a connection with them - that she could confide anything in Penelope; and that Chase inspires a level of love and desire that she never felt with her boyfriend, Landon.
As it gets closer to her 16th birthday, her parents finally reveal why she feels so different - she is a witch.
I really like Shanklin's take on witches, that there are a finite number of them, and their souls are continuously reborn. The magic that their parents teach them; and the spells that our four main characters experiment with all feel like they come from a solid background.
I think it's an interesting concept about finding ones' soulmate again, everytime you're reborn. I think the parents have a very hard line to walk - they know their kids are meant to be together, and have had a serious relationship in every reincarnation. They know they'll want to be close, but they still have to maintain some boundaries.
And the not-so-good?
The main problem I had with the story was the sameyness of it all. Everyone was totally ok with everything. Annisa wasn't bothered that her parents had lied to her all her life. Landon didn't care too much that his long-term girlfriend dumped him for the new guy. Chase was perfectly content to go along with everything Annisa said (even when he was angry at her, it was a very quiet "let's discuss this like adults and come to a mutually beneficial conclusion" sort of anger). Their parental people were all supportive, understanding and agreeable (even the parents that had been seduced by dark magic).
And Penelope? Warning: mild spoilers: I come to her last, because I really liked her and I struggled over one key fact. Penelope and Landon are soulmates. The curse has been placed on the foursome because Annisa chose Landon instead of Chase in one lifetime. Now they have had several lifetimes where Annisa has made the same mistake, and it is only in this most recent cycle that she has broken the curse and fallen for the right guy. So where does that leave Penelope? She gets to keep her memories and her pain? She knows that she has had many lifetimes of being rejected by her soulmate as he vies for her best friend's attention? I'm just surprised, and hurt on her behalf that she's so placid about it all.
There's a lot of mutually beneficial discussions and planning that goes on, which I found a little repetitive as the book went on. There were quite a few instances of Annisa thinking something in detail; then repeating it in dialogue to discuss with friends/parents in equal detail. I felt like I was always being told twice about everything, rather than Shanklin trusting the strength of her characters' dialogue to get the message across.
Finally, just one small thing. For most of the book, it felt like a YA read, being based on teenagers, and the writing having the air of safety and support. I was shocked when it suddenly jumped into full on smex! It was like watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch and accidentally switching over to 50 Shades!
Now, I have no problems with steamy sex scenes, but it just felt so against the whole vibe of the book. I was expecting a bit of kissing and cuddling and fade to black. Soul Journey just felt confused as to who it was aimed at.
Overall, I think it's a series with a lot of potential, I really like the background of it all. I just think the execution lost a little of its direction.