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on December 31, 2014
Hmmmmm an interesting book. This gives you another way to look at fantasy, by giving us some new ideas to play with.

There are tough characters, in the book. I was surprised about Caris. You have characters where they are ex something, addicted to something and have trouble pasts. But the way Caris was written into the story will give you a new way to look at things,

I liked the idea of the this kingdom and the Old Ones. Something new and written nicely. The plot was fast and kept my attention throughout. The characters were developed well and the fantasy aspect was done differently and I loved it.
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on March 1, 2015
Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'The Jack of Souls,' An Epic Fantasy by Stephen C. Merlino.

In The Jack of Souls by Stephen C. Merlino, Harric lives his last day knowing the curse on his family will be his undoing. An outcast and a rogue he begins having nightmares about his upcoming death. He has no intention of giving in; he knows that he will survive, but how?

He has some allies but they too are outcasts. Caris is a horse-whispering runaway, she is planning on becoming one of the Queens female knights, but she also feels she must help Harric survive. She is strong and bigger than even most men, but she is also very shy, comfortable only around her horses. Then there is Sir Willard, he was once immortal and a champion, but had given it up, but is now addicted to pain-killing herbs. With their help Harric plans on keeping the curse from killing him.

Each of his compatriots has their own secrets, Caris is haunted and Willard wars with the Old Ones, an order of knights who have become immortal and mad. They have every intention of seizing the throne from the Queen, and Willard is desperate to save her.

Yet these are his allies and his friends and together they must find a way to eliminate the curse, and save their Queen. Yet Harric is now faced with a magic that could break his curse, one that is forbidden. Can he stay focused and not fall into the temptation, for that way too leads to danger and possible death.

As they work their way through the dangers he finds more than he anticipated, including a love that is more than he ever expected. He must tread a path of duplicity and utilize his tactics to save them all from the dangers that face them.

The characters are an eclectic and amazing array of good and bad, with issues that seem both real and honest. The depth of description helps you to visualize them as well as get into the minds assigned to them by the author. They become very real, like your own friends and advisers. The story too is bold and epic, a journey to safety and romance, but a journey of growth and courage as well.

You will find yourself immersed in the characters and the countryside as they travel to find the answers. Be prepared to spend some time because once started you will find it difficult to put down. And even as you do put is down, you continue to think and worry about them, each with the situations they must overcome.

If you enjoy epic fantasy, magic, immortality and a mixture of the things that go bump in the night this will be the work you need for your library. For the romantic there is also fodder for your heart, for the dedication and courage that shines forth creates a corresponding glow in your own heart.

Stephen C. Merlino is an author to watch.
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on December 26, 2014
I really enjoyed this book, it grips you from the start and doesn't let go. Unique characters, races, magic system and mythology / religion in this world that you want to learn more and more about. There are a few gruesome parts, but necessary to the plot. Looking forward to the next book!
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on August 21, 2015
While the storylines seem to take forever to converge, the various characters develop distinctly, and this makes for more nuanced interchanges and adds humor. The tension and mystery build, and although this book ends with a "minor" battle, there are more conflicts to resolve, enticing the reader to continue the series.

I appreciate that there are minimal errors; the book is very well edited. The writing is clean. The characters are unique. The plot is humorous, dark, weird, complex in its interweavings, and full of action/fighting. The romance is also tainted with weirdness/irony and humor.

I recommend this book to adult/more mature fantasy readers as the antagonist is brutal and vile; the character interactions are more adult in nature; thematic conflicts involve "drug" use/the use of dark magic/demonic powers; there is torture/violence; sexual abuse is implied; and there is a sprinkling of foul language.

In spite of these warnings, the story is sufficiently engaging for "mild" readers to enjoy the characters' misadventures.
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on May 20, 2015
Who doesn't love a good trickster character? Jack of Souls has a great one in Harric, a young man trained by his mad mother to excel in the art of maneuvering, manipulating and tricking others for gain. Harric stumbles into a quest with the epic, formerly immortal Sir Willard, Caris, a young woman bent on becoming a female knight, and the magic wielding inhuman ambassador Brolli that offers him a chance to use his abilities for something good. There is forbidden sorcery, a truly creepy antagonist you'll love to hate, and a budding romance between Harric and Caris. And there's also Harric's mother from hell, who manages to continue to torment and manipulate him even after death.

Merlino has a gift for creating interesting characters, the kind that jump off the page and are very much themselves. I was especially charmed by Caris, who is "horse touched", able to connect to and control horses, but easily overwhelmed by contact with people. She's essentially rather autistic, and having a well rounded character with that as a primary challenge is an interesting move by Merlino, and not something I've seen elsewhere in the genre. Merlino is an award winning writer, and it's easy to see why. His descriptions are interesting, his dialogue fun, and his world creation original. I very much look forward to the next installment in this new series.
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on March 26, 2015
Harric is a good guy.

He saves damsels in distress because it’s the right thing to do. (And also, he likes girls.)

He’s joined up with folks who are off to save the land from evil. (But he needed to get out of town quick anyway.)

He keeps in contact with his mother. (Unfortunately she’s dead and working hard to kill him too.)

He thinks carefully about making the right decisions. (Except for those highly questionable situations that he dives headlong into.)

And he works hard selling his wares. (While he fleeces unsuspecting persons out of any money he can.)

I always like a book with a good guy don’t you?

Would I recommend it?
This is far more than just a fantasy book with a good guy. It’s full of new worlds and magics, culture clashes and ideals, angry immortals and horses (it never hurts to have good horses)… it’s epic fantasy! I finished it, promptly took the book my husband was reading away and put this in his hands instead. If you’re a fantasy lover put this next on your list!
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on March 10, 2015
When I started this book I was rather sceptical. Some of it remained till the end of it. As long as the main character seems quite well-developed the remaining foreground one, that is he object of love of the MC, is irritating (and it is a euphemism). It is as single-dimensional as it is only possible and seems to belong to a completely different story. It is surprising as other persons of the book, even though lacking in dimensionality at times, are still full-fledged citizens of the book.
The world presented, divided by multiple aspects (culture, history, use of magic, race) is interesting. Existence of magic and higher beings is a nice touch. All in all - very interesting setting with high potential.
The plot, even though simple, has the ability to suck the reader in. Of course, the book ends with a cliff-hanger - how else :)
Summarizing - worth reading, just please, kill the horse-touch girl before she kills the fun of reading the book with her stubborn simplicity.
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on September 22, 2015
This is the first Stephen Merlino book I've read, and I really enjoyed it. He has a knack for creating quirky, unique characters. Cookie cutter, they are not. A handsome hero who has "mommy issues", the beautiful Amazon who just happens to be in love with him, an old knight suffering from a curse who has given up his immortality for the greater good and the strange, little ambassador just to name a few. I love his descriptions and the fairy tale story he's written. It's a bit of a quest, a coming of age saga, and a fairy tale all rolled into one.
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on May 14, 2015
Inventive and well paced, it's a solid first book of the series. The writing only becomes a bit convoluted when the main character moves into the Unseen world. But it's very easy to root for the Old Knight given the substance of his character, his struggle with immortality, and the well thought out dialogue provided by the author. Looking forward to the next book.
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on September 26, 2015
The beginning pulled me right in. Harric is a compelling rogue who I could care about right from page one, The story isn't predictable, though some elements are standard fantasy, there was enough differentness to keep me guessing as to where the story was headed. I especially liked the addition of Caris. She is in no way cookie-cutter. I would have loved to have her viewpoint for more of the chapters and hope the author will utilize her perspective more in future instalments.
I did find that the plot meandered a bit. I was unclear as to Harric's goals long term. In this volume, he is trying to stay alive, and that is enough, but I was trying to peer ahead and wanted the author to give me a bit more in the area of character's goals. But that said, with so many books that I do sample, there are not many that pull me in so quickly. This is an engaging and fun read. I'm looking forward to the next installment.
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