SoulBond by Christine Price

Title: SoulBond
Author: Christine Price
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: M/M Science Fiction
Length: Novella (96 Pages)
Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5

Summary Review: An ambitious science fiction story that ultimately fails due to the immature writing and multiple basic mistakes.

THE BLURB:

Some bonds can’t be broken by time. Or space. Or death.

When Captain Julian Gaspar captures an enemy spacecraft, he takes aboard a sapphire-eyed stranger who captures his heart. The powerful attraction that draws Julian to the mysterious Ellis is instant, undeniable, and throws Julian’s well-ordered life into chaos.

The heat they generate burns as brightly and naturally as the stars—until Ellis is stolen away by a merciless pirate who trades in lives. In a heartbeat, Ellis is gone, leaving Julian broken and haunted by his last, angry words to his lover.

After five years of searching, Julian is finally reunited with Ellis, only to find him dying, imprisoned by a strange, ring-bound enchantment that is slowly draining his soul. Removing the ring will mean his immediate death unless Julian can find a source of powerful, ancient magic. Older than the stars. Older than time…

THE REVIEW:

I was so looking forward to reading this book. I specifically asked to be allowed to review it, because I found the blurb so intriguing. Unfortunately despite creating what could have been an intense and emotionally wrenching plot, Ms Price just wasn’t able to live up to the promise of that blurb. Her writing completely let her down.

First of all, a brief run-down of story events. The novella begins in the middle of the story, when after years of vain searching Julian’s kidnapped lover Ellis stumbles back into his life, almost wasted away and with only weeks to live. The book then goes back to the beginning, showing how they met – Ellis was stowed away in the cargo hold of an enemy ship and when Julian boarded the ship he ‘persuaded’ Julian to give Ellis safe passage by way of Ellis giving Julian a blowjob. This scene made me cringe rather, since even though Ellis appears enthusiastic, any sexual activity performed under the threat of being put out of an airlock takes on tones of non-con for me, and there was no warning for that on this title. We then follow them through their relationship up to the point where Ellis was stolen. Following that the author leaps back to the present day and Julian’s desperate efforts to keep his lover alive. This sounds a little confusing but actually the structure was one of the book’s stronger points, creating a sense of mystery and drama which might otherwise have been lacking with such a long separation between the lovers.

The story is told exclusively through the POV of Julian, and this was one of the main problems for me. I found it impossible to connect emotionally with Julian. The author writes about his actions from within his POV, without ever really managing to convey any inner life. He felt one-dimensional to me. If you imagine Keanu Reeves’ acting applied to a written character, you may get a sense of what I mean. This impacted deeply on the way I perceived his relationship with Ellis.

Ellis is another character who is hard to get a grip on. At first he’s painted as an ultra-up-for-it twink, happy to drop to his knees for the first guy he sees. Then, quite suddenly, he becomes deeply emotionally attached to Julian, to the point that he’s willing to risk his life for him. We’re given reasons for this later on – along with a revelation about Ellis’ identity which I don’t want to spoil – but I just wasn’t convinced by them. In effect, this was the author *telling* us that the connection between the characters is epic and spiritual, without really showing it.

There were also many strange errors which were constantly jarring me out of the story. Julian wants to close the shutters on his window when he and Ellis have sex – even though they’re in space and all that’s outside is the stars. An alien who we’re told has no mouth is later said to smile. Julian – supposedly a tough and competent captain – pulls out a laser torch even though he is covered in flammable liquid, setting his engine room on fire and nearly killing himself. We’re told that, in order to increase speed, the ship’s heating power has been redirected to the engine and shown the crew running around wearing blankets, when in fact in the vacuum of space the crew would freeze to death without heat. The prostate is at one point described as a ‘bundle of muscle’. It’s possible that there is an explanation for some of this – but if the author meant that only half the ship’s heating power had been directed to the engine, or that the alien was smiling with his eyes, those lines needed to be re-written to make that clear. One or two errors like this wouldn’t have troubled me too much, but the story was riddled with them.

On top of this, the author’s prose occasionally stopped making sense entirely. For example, we’re told that the captain takes new recruits to meet his chief engineer, who is an alien with a rather dramatic appearance, to test their merit:

“One man had fainted at the sight of his high ridges of cartilage and the sharp upturn of his nose.”

Why on earth would those features make anyone faint?

I’m sorry that I can’t be more positive about this story, because I did feel at times that there might have been the gleaming of something better in there. The way that the legend of the Star Keeper was told was lyrical and moving, and as I’ve mentioned, I think the basic plot was sound. Unfortunately this novella felt rather like a very rough first draft which needed editing on a fundamental level to improve it. Perhaps further books from Ms Price will allow her to develop her skills – I hope so. However, I’m afraid that I cannot recommend SoulBond to readers.

Author

Budding m/m author (two stories contracted so far, watch this space) residing in England.

15 comments

  • Thank you a thoughtful review, Alexi.

    I must say I was looking forward to for this sci-fi m/m book when I saw the cover, it made my heart skip.
    Now after reading read the excerpt to see for myself and I found it was hard to follow and too long, I usually found long excerpt to be helpful so it must be the writing.

    The comparison to Keanu Reeves made me lol. I know exactly what you mean and when the story is supposedly be about an epic romance between the two characters, well, it becomes unexpectedly amusing. To add to this are the errors, blah.
    There are some interesting things like the aliens (I love aliens) and the Star Keeper but the quote made me snort with laughter.
    The tone seems overly serious which adds to the lolz. 😀

    “Unfortunately this novella felt rather like a very rough first draft which needed editing on a fundamental level to improve it.”
    Some extensive editing could probably save it, why was it even published like this. Makes me feel a little sad for the author, actually. *sigh*

    Reply
    • You are welcome, and I’m glad that it was useful.

      I do think that the demand for a constant stream of new m/m fiction can sometimes mean that authors get published – and their work exposed to the world – before it’s really ready. Someone would have had to give this book some serious time and attention, but I think it could be been a LOT better for proper editing.

      Reply
  • I can’t believe you would be so harsh on dear Canadian Keanu. *sniff* I don’t think we can be friends any more. He’s a thespian damn it. 😛 Just kiddin.

    I am a stickler for continuity. That makes me more crazy than wacky grammar and spelling errors. He put his suitcase on the bed and leaves the room, then promptly re-enters and flops down on the bed. On top of the suitcase? Isn’t that painful? Shouldn’t he move it first? Or just put it on the floor. So that mouth thing would make me more crazy than Keanu acting (do charcter act?). Although in Torchwood didn’t Jack have a boyfriend without a mouth once? I remember that. Maybe that’s where the author got the idea.

    I’m not a huge sci-fi in book-form fan so for me it has to be really oustanding to convince me to give it a try, but I think there is too much in this one to make me willing to step outside my usual boundaries.

    Reply
    • Oh, bless poor Keanu. I’m sure he does his best. And he does look ever so good in leather pants.

      The basic mistakes in the story gave me the idea that despite debuting with an SF story, the author doesn’t read or watch much SF herself, because those are the sorts of things most geeks pick up on (says the self-admitted geek). So if you don’t go for the genre yourself much, this is not a good place to start. It might put you off even more.

      I don’t think the author got the idea of the mouthless boyfriend from Torchwood. This guy is a seven-foot lizard with a foot-long neck, scales, blonde ‘hair-like filaments’ and no mouth or nose. Maybe it makes me species-ist, but he doesn’t sound like Jack’s type to me. Not after poor, beautiful Ianto (sob!).

      Reply
      • Seriously, if it breaths it’s Jack’s type, and maybe even that’s not a necessity. LOL I think the mouthless guy was long before Ianto, may he rest in peace.

        Reply
        • Possibly that *was* true, but I think Ianto taught Jack the meaning of true love (sob, sob). Anyway, the description of the alien made it sound truly repulsive, so breathing or not (and with no nose, it might be not) I still don’t think anyone but a member of his own species would go for him.

          And I say ‘him’, but the author never specifies the alien’s gender either!

          (Shakes head)

          Reply
  • You make me feel good about not buying this one. I had planned to but forgot. I do love sci-fi but this sounds like a disaster Alexi.

    Reply
  • That torch and flammable liquid scene would have ruined it for me too. I would have been hoping the ‘hero’ would have died for his stupidity. I don’t know if I could have finished this story after that one.

    Thanks for the review.

    Reply
    • And unfortunately that’s only the first and least significant time he does something ridiculously stupid – but the ones that come after are plot spoilers so I kept them to myself.

      It’s not like characters can’t do stupid things, but there needs to be some motivation, some reason. I literally have no idea why Julian did that. I don’t think Julian did either. It was just there so that Ellis dive to his rescue.

      You’re welcome.

      Reply
  • >>I still have cover envy, though.<< The cover was what first attracted me to the book, then the blurb. Oh well, better luck next time.

    Reply
  • Alexi
    I’m so disappointed (as I mentioned in my email in much stronger language) 🙁 because I was looking forward to reading this book. I’m surprised, based on your review, that you even gave Soul Bond 2 stars because it seems to have been a disaster from start to finish. This is the reason why good editors are so important. I wonder many times when I read romance novels whether anyone other than the author has read them before they were published.

    I guess this review will free up time for me to slot another book into my TBR.

    Thanks for taking one for the team.

    Reply
    • Yeah, plowing through it wouldn’t make my list of top ten fun ways to spend an afternoon. But even though I was facepalming half the time I was reading, there were glimmers of potential there. Like I said, the plot and structure were sound, and there was one tiny part, when the character Ellis was describing a myth of how the stars came to fill the universe, that made me stop and say, ‘Hmmm. Maybe this author *can* write’. So it got 2.5 for that.

      I still have cover envy, though.

      Reply
  • I don’t usually comment on reviews, but your comparison to Keanu both made me cringe for the author/reader and nod in understanding. I’ve both read and written characters like that, but hopefully, no one sees the written ones until I’ve corrected that Keanu-like resemblance.

    Thank you (and the other reviewers on this site) for writing quality reviews of both great and not-so-stellar books. Your reasoning behind each set of stars helps me decide how much weight to give each review as I consider new purchases.

    Reply
    • Thank you for commenting – this is my the first review where I’ve had to say that I can’t recommend the book at all, and it was hard. I too, have written these Keanu characters, so I’m sympathetic to the writer. Hopefully she’ll have learned valuable lessons from writing this story, and her next book will be better.

      Reply

Please comment! We'd love to hear from you.