A copy of Our Souls to Keep was kindly sent to me by Gary A. Caruso in exchange for an honest review.
Our Souls to Keep is the first in a series by Gary A. Caruso. Fast paced, dark, disturbing and unrelenting, it’s a strong start indeed. Wake is a human/demon hybrid soul collector, one of the best, who made a deal with Satan in order to save his mother’s soul from eternal torture. After years of mindlessly doing his job everything changes, he’s having flashbacks of his human life and crippling bouts of human emotion. Something is changing and it all seems to centre around Wake and pregnant Annemarie, whose soul, and that of her unborn child, Satan wants.
When I first started reading Our Souls to Keep I thought a fairly predictable series of events would unfold, but, while some did, there are also some brilliant twists. There’s a very real and raw vibe to it as you read it, as it’s told from Wake’s point of view, even if his back and forth between what is right and wrong gets a bit tiresome. We get it Wake, you’ve been stupid and want to get out of your ridiculous deal with Satan, stop whinging and accept this fact. Once he, for want of a better phrase, man’s up and decides what he’s going to do the action definitely picks up and the entire storyline becomes more interesting.
I love the way Caruso has crafted his characters, although there’s a very disturbing voodoo lady thrown in there. I don’t quite know how he did it, but I immediately liked Wake (must’ve been his tortured soul or something), and Nevin, his demon mentor; you know they’re evil straight away, but there’s something undeniably appealing about them, especially Nevin. Okay, I’m a little bit in love with Nevin (not sure what that says about me…). I definitely preferred Wake when he wasn’t having an emotional and spiritual crisis about his role as, in his words, Satan’s bitch, but he is an extremely likable protagonist and luckily his crisis doesn’t span the entire novel. Once he’s decided what he’s going to do he becomes even more appealing, like some kind of demonic avenging angel.
One of the only things that I really didn’t like about Wake was his initial interaction with Dooley, and the way he was confused by his behaviour because he’s gay – ‘I’ve never been able to quite figure out gay guys.’ Well, here’s a quick lesson, he’s a guy like you, a human, well not like you, and he’s just trying to protect his friend, don’t assume he wants to jump your bones just because he’s gay, you certainly wouldn’t be this confused if this had been an interaction with a girl. I can deal with all his emotional turmoil and uncertainty but not that closed-minded stupidity and it just seemed like an unnecessary aside from him. I also found it quite hard to believe that a violent community would be so accepting of a gay teenage couple, it just didn’t seem viable to me. Dooley and Josh just weren’t handled very well in my opinion.*
The evil characters were much more appealing to me that the good guys and this book definitely appealed to my dark side; the demons are fabulous, completely unfeeling and heartless, leading people to suicide and watching them kill themselves with satisfaction (and gruesome detail) before collecting their souls without a care. I think I would have read 300 pages of Nevin being a horrendous, twisted madman to be honest. It was only more than half way through that I started to care about Annemarie and her unborn child; they’re brought in as an important factor near the beginning, before disappearing into obscurity for a while. I wasn’t really invested in her character but I did want her and her baby to be safe. The relationship/attraction/thing between Wake and Annemarie was pretty weird though and escalated far too quickly for my liking, she seems far too naïve and willing to believe everything Wake tells her and run off with him. It was just…weird.
Overall, though, I think this is a strong debut from Gary A. Caruso, angels and demons aren’t my usual fantasy choice but I quite like Caruso’s take on them, especially the demons, and I’m interested to see where this series goes.
Read: July 11th-14th 2013
*spoilers from Goodreads removed