Author: Shaila Patel
Series: Joining of Souls #1
Genres: YA, urban fantasy, romance
Format: paperback provided by the author
Rating: 🌟🌟 + 1/2
Synopsis: Two souls. One Fate.
Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.
Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.
When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.
Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?
This book and I have an interesting relationship. On one hand, I definitely enjoyed reading this story and liked certain aspects of it, but on another I just couldn’t help from cringing my way through it.
I really wanted to like Soulmated, especially since I’d read a lot of praise on Goodreads and around the book community, but I think my long and not-so-spectacular history with urban fantasy/paranormal romance got in the way. While I can and have enjoyed stories from this genre, it’s generally not my cup of tea.
Honestly, the only real problem I had with this book was the romance. But since this book is 98% romance, you can see how that didn’t bode well for my feelings about the story overall. Lucky and Liam’s relationship had real potential, there’s undoubtedly a lot of chemistry and attraction between them. But I just couldn’t get over the fact that the whole book takes place in the course of a week. Not a season, not even a month – yet *small spoiler alert* Lucky and Liam manage to fall madly and desperately in love. Over a week! Even though they are “meant to be” according to the world of empath magic, it still wasn’t enough to really convince me.
The writing is also very tough to get through at times, it’s often over descriptive and unrealistic. Way too much emphasis is put on their “teenage hormones” and “raw physical attraction” to the point where I was rolling my eyes quite a bit. There’s also some of the “She’s not like other girls” trope regarding Lucky, and that’s one of my personal pet peeves as a reader.
“A small Adam’s apple interrupted the line of his throat. I imagined touching the little speed bump and the stubble around it and shivered.”
On top of that, a few of the references seemed very outdated to me, to the point where I wonder if this book is meant to be set in the late ’90s or early 2000s. If anyone knows if this is actually the case, please let me know! But as an example, both characters mention using a stereo/CD player. Last time I checked, no teenager uses anything but their phone or computer to play music on these days. Also, Lucky and Liam never seem to use phones the way today’s teenagers do? There’s zero mention of social media of any kind. Liam calls his a “mobile” (which might be a European thing, I guess). Overall, these off-beat qualities just add to how unrealistic the story already is.
In terms of the plot and magic system, there honestly isn’t much. There are a small handful of twists that helped to pique my interest and give a breather from the romance, but not enough for my liking. The empath politics are also confusing at times, but what we did get to see I really enjoyed! I just wish there had been more of it.
Though others might disagree, I thought the dual POVs were both very beneficial to the story and to understanding Lucky and Liam. It was one of the few things that I fully appreciated. It was really fun to read about how Lucky was angry, or ecstatic, or any other variation of some extreme emotion, and then read it from Liam’s perspective as he feels and receives those same emotions through his empath abilities.
The other thing I really liked is how Lucky and Liam are both steeped in cultural family history, and how each responds to the traditions of their cultures. Nothing is black and white when it comes to Lucky’s feelings about being Indian American, and it would be foolish of me to dismiss how important the ownvoices rep is in this book. I can’t speak for it myself, since I’m not Indian American, but I really did enjoy seeing how Lucky struggled to reconcile her mother’s expectations along with her own personal goals and aspirations. If anyone knows of any reliable ownvoices reviews I could link to this post, please let me know! I had trouble finding some. Liam also faces similar challenges as a result of his family being Irish, but each are unique in their reactions.
“With everyone else, I was someone specific – a dancer, an Indian girl, an American, a daughter – but with Liam, I was no one in particular. I was just me.”
The presence of both Lucky and Liam’s family members was refreshing as well, since most YA characters tend to go the entirety of the novel with hardly any mention of a guardian or parental figure. But I would’ve liked the side characters (including Lucky’s friends) to be more fleshed out and play a larger role.
The ending was a bit strange and seemingly random, but it does have an intriguing climax and cliffhanger for the next book. While I probably won’t be picking up the sequel myself, I would still recommend Soulmated to fans of paranormal romance or to those looking for ownvoices Indian American rep in a fantasy novel!
Have you read Soulmated? What did you think? What are some of your favorite YA urban fantasies or paranormal romances?
Thanks so much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!