My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A brave new world has been created by Benjamin Dudley in Painting Souls, his fantasy fiction novel. Designed to be the first of several books about the world of Celestia, Painting Souls introduces a cast of many. A cast so broad in fact, that the guide notes printed in the back of the novel and the map of Celestia, prove useful in keeping the characters clear and their relations understood.
From the first page, the reader is drawn into the world of Celestia and its inhabitants. The Great War is over, the enemy defeated, and Celestia is free. But is the war really over? Or is this the beginning of an even bigger battle? A battle for Celestia’s very existence? In a world spread across eight continents, good and evil vie for supremacy and for 150 years an uneasy Alliance has been working hard to try to defeat this evil (led by a vampire named Holocaust and by two opposed spirits, the Shadow and the Wraith) and maintain good and peace in the world. The cost of the Great War has been high. Millions have been orphaned and at least one entire race has been almost totally annihilated by the “dark ones.”
But what about the hero introduced in the first chapter? Adrian Servatious is 35 years old, human, and in love with a kudzu-related female who is carrying his child. But when she breaks off their relationship Adrian cares nothing for his war honour and great achievements against the dark forces, he just wants to win back her love. But his destiny is calling, and Adrian must put his personal considerations aside to prepare himself for the greatest fight of his life.
At the same time, Gai Young, a 16-year old Ibiza Peacekeeping Academy boy, shows great promise for leading Celestia to unending peace. His father, a gentle half-Vampire, was killed in battle fighting for the Alliance. Gai’s cold, rationally objective mother (who is mostly human), is a respected scientist. This combined heritage gives Gai the knowledge and understanding that he displays at the Academy. Although Adrian and Gai do not meet throughout Painting Souls, it is obvious that theirs is a shared future which will be explored in future novels in the series.
This complex novel offers an interesting blend of fantasy fiction and anime, with spirituality and magic playing their part. At times, the reader can be swamped by the sheer level of detail and number of characters. However, Dudley’s vivid action sequences keep the pages turning, providing the feel of a movie, and the introduction of new characters keep interest levels high. Dudley has been quoted as saying that his goal of the novel is to use the cultural, political and technological systems in Celestia to show readers a new way to look and feel those similar systems in modern day America.
Benjamin Dudley has obtained degrees in both philosophy and economics from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He currently resides in the unique, cultured capital of North Carolina, where he continues to write and explore his business career.