Reviewed by Tori
Callie Delego finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place when her brother once again gets in over his head and Callie has to do a favor for the mob or her brother forfeits his life. To save him she will need to rent a soul, but when she can’t cover the cost the Soul Charmer makes her a deal. Two weeks working for him will get her a soul. A deal that forces Callie into a world of magic and mayhem. With the help of the Soul Charmer’s sexy enforcer, Derek, Callie hurries to stay one step ahead of the mob while upholding her deal with the Soul Charmer as she walks a tight line between family, loyalty, and salvation.
Urban Fantasy welcomes Chelsea Mueller and her authorial debut with open arms as she introduces readers to Gem City, a place where religion holds sway and people are able to borrow souls for a price in order to commit sin without compromising their own. All condoned by the Church. Solid characters and familiar content create a comfortable base for readers to begin their journey. Key elements emerge and engage as Mueller balances the world building and character set up with the main conflict. Snarky wit and snappy narrative keep the story flowing at an enjoyable pace. Multiple subplots offer readers the assurance that this is just the beginning of what’s to come.Though this particular world view isn’t new (think Stacia Kane’s Downside series) Mueller adds her own personal stamp to it and creates an action packed unique adventure that I quite enjoyed.
Our protagonist, Callie Delego, is 22 years old and has spent her life taking care of her mom and brother. She finds herself forced into one predicament after another because of her drug addict brother and her motto that family always come first. Not your usual urban fantasy heroine, Callie isn’t a natural born warrior or a powerful magic wielder. She isn’t on a mission of revenge, redemption, or growth. She’s just an average woman whose unwavering loyalty towards her worthless family is her Achilles heel. Her vulnerability and low self-esteem make it hard to connect with her at first though you begin to understand her motivations as you get to know her. She makes choices that come across as weak and/or naive but there is a commendable determination to her actions. She is who she is and she neither excuses herself nor expects you to make excuses for her. I am very interested to see what direction Mueller takes in Callie’s growth and evolution.
An interesting and diverse cast of secondary characters decorates the story, each with their own story and agenda that looks to slowly reveal over the course of the series. Callie’s mother and brother are both manipulative users who use the past to keep a tight leash around Callie’s neck. Derek is an enigma and very sweet, patient, and protective under his rather large and gruff exterior. An enforcer for the Soul Charmer, he is who you’ll meet if you don’t return the soul you borrowed on time. His and Callie’s romance is slow to develop and actually quite charming but still moved a little faster than I was used to in Urban Fantasy. I’m curious to see if his connection to his boss is what I think it is and with whom his loyalties will eventually end up. The Soul Charmer and Ford the crime boss are both villains of the story and each wants something from Callie regardless of the price she may be forced to pay. I enjoyed the multiple dimensions Mueller gave her characters. They are neither predictable nor expected. The notion of good and evil is subjective and even Callie has shades of gray within her.
I did find the story dragged a little at times but that is common with the first book of a series, especially in fantasy. Heavy magical world and character building take time and it can interfere with the flow of the story line. I also found the romance a bit premature. I would have liked for a slower build up between Derek and Callie, perhaps over a couple of books, but that is my personal preference when it comes to urban fantasy.
Mueller leaves us with plenty of questions and concerns as she breaks off rather abruptly and leaves Gem City. Callie’s life is changing…whether it’s for better or worse remains to be seen. I look forward to reading the next in the series, title and release date to be announced. If you looking for something beyond the usual shifters, mages, and vampires in your urban fantasy then Chelsea Mueller has the perfect read for you.
Now for the fun part!! I have one copy of Borrowed Souls to give away. Just leave a comment telling me what your favorite urban fantasy trope is. I will pick a winner Sunday. Giveaway is open to US residents only.