The Soul Bond (Werewolf High Book Four), by Anita Oh

It’s my last review of 2016, so I decided to return to the YA fiction equivalent of comfort food. Something familiar that would tie me over until the new year. I’ve already read the first three books in Anita Oh’s Werewolf High series, and since the fourth one just came out, it made for a pretty simple reading choice.

I enjoyed the first three books—which all took place during narrator Lucy O’Connor’s freshman year at secluded, exclusive, possibly magical Amaris High—to varying degrees. I felt The Truth Spell had the overall best concept, and The Tiny Curse had the overall best execution, but The Body Swap was missing some of these elements. However, the strengths of the series lie in Lucy’s wonderfully snarky narration and the growing character development between her and the werewolves of Golden House, particularly Tennyson Wilde (with whom she had swapped bodies in book 3).

This new installment takes place at the start of sophomore year, so I was wondering if the academic promotion would naturally lead to the characters maturing a little bit. Not only was I pleased that this was the case, but I also feel there was overall growth in the plotting and execution of the story itself.

While I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free, that’s hard to do when reviewing later books in a series. I kinda have to reveal some things from the first three books. You’ve been warned.

Book four starts with Lucy trying to control the chaos of her younger brothers. She has decided not to return to Amaris High, and after all that has happened to her—being bullied, shrunk, and bodyswapped to name a few—you can’t really blame her. But Tennyson and the others show up and convince her to come back. After all, there are mysteries to solve: her father is back and kinda sketchy, her former roommate slash frenemy Hannah has been abducted, and there are mysterious beings called the Others who may be pulling the strings of the series’ deepest mystery.

Like expected, strange things start happening to Lucy. She gets bruises when Tennyson hurts himself, and the two of them develop a kind of telepathic link. Whether it’s a residual effect of their swap in the previous book or a new spell or curse isn’t so much important as what it does for their relationship. And even more so what it does for their individual relationships with Sam, Lucy’s childhood neighbor and best friend. I’m going to avoid saying that it creates a love triangle between them because that trope is used too often in YA fiction, but where Oh develops it is quite believable given the supernatural elements at play in the book.

What makes this book more complex than the previous three is that this soul bond isn’t the only weird thing Lucy has to deal with. Occasionally, her eyes glow brightly, and she feels pressure inside her like she’s going to explode. Whether caused by the bond to a werewolf or something else, the phenomenon is identified as the Becoming. Lucy is headed toward some kind of transformation, but what is she becoming? And what does her father know about it?

There are real, palpable stakes being raised in this book, and it was gripping to watch the characters deal with these concurrent—possibly connected—problems. Information was revealed at just the right pace with some true surprises and several laugh-out-loud moments. Regardless of what Lucy could become, it’s clear at the end of the book that she has changed. She’s stronger. There are mysteries to solve and a friend to find, and she’s more willing and ready to face the challenges ahead. That shows overall growth of character and in this series.

My only quibble is with the climactic chapters of the story. It’s not about the content, as I really felt the desperation and tension in those scenes. It’s about their location within the story—a little earlier than I expected based on the percentage given on my Kindle—and even though what followed was pertinent to the plot, I felt there was just a little too much denouement afterwards. After all, there’s another book—The Love Potion—coming soon.

But that’s a very minor complaint. The characters have been good souls all along, but here the plot threads really bond together well. I think this is the best book in the series so far, and I give The Soul Bond FOUR AND A HALF STARS.

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The Soul Bond is available at Amazon.

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