Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Bound Souls, by N.D. Jones


Bound Souls
(Forever Yours, Book 1)
N.D. Jones
Trade Paperback, 
Kuumba Publishing
February 10, 2017
Diverse Reads, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction
Source: Author

Synopsis:  Regent Lela of Asiya is the most powerful person on her planet, but she is powerless to save the life of her beloved soulmate — Zion Grace. For thirty years they lived as husband and wife, but Zion’s time is at an end. Lela must go on without him.

“There will never be anyone else for me.”

Despite having died, nothing can keep Zion from his soulmate. He’s back, but not as the man he once was. Zion must help Lela move on with her life, lest he lose her forever. But how can Zion convince Lela to accept the love and affections of another man when he still wants her for himself?

“I love you, Lela. My heart is forever yours.”

Lela and Zion are bound souls, destined to live eternity together. For these lovers, death is not an end, but a fateful beginning.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34369474-bound-souls?ac=1&from_search=true








I started this book with mixed feelings. In fact, I stopped reading it after about 100 pages. But then, after taking care of some other book reviews, I returned to this novel, having decided to give it another chance. And I'm so glad I did, too! I started from the beginning again, and this time, was able to finish it. I very much enjoyed it, as well!

What I had initially objected to was the way the love triangle in this novel was handled by Jones. I wasn't very comfortable with that. I won't say more, as I don't want to include any spoilers. However, the second time around, I was able to move beyond this to an appreciation of the great love that both Zion and Ammon, the two male protagonists, felt for Lela, the female protagonist.

Zion, Lela's first husband, was from Earth. From the descriptions in the novel, it became apparent that he was also an African-American. 

Ammon, like Lela, was from the planet of Asiya. The inhabitants of this planet have an unspecified ethnicity, and are much like humans.

Although Lela was bound to Zion for eternity, she also loved Ammon. Her relationship with him was no less beautiful than the one she had with Zion, although she was unable to give her heart fully to Ammon. Still, she loved him as much as she was capable of loving him. 

I did feel sorry for Ammon. As Lela's second husband, he was well aware that her heart totally belonged to Zion, but his love for Lela was unconditional, so he gladly accepted what she was able to give him.

This is a science fiction romance novel, so the emphasis is on the romance. Thus, it's not a fast-paced novel. Initially, this was another thing that bothered me. During the second reading, I saw and felt that the gentle pacing was just perfect for this particular story. This is, after all, a character-driven novel. It's the characters' emotions and thoughts that are important. 

The narrative opens with an argument between Zion and Lela, a few years before his death. It closes with a beautiful, peaceful reconciliation/reunion between them. In between, we go through all of Lela's tumultuous feelings right along with her, as she tries to come to terms with Zion's passing, as well as her acceptance of Ammon as her second husband.

I loved both Zion and Ammon, each being wonderful in his own way. I loved how much they each loved and treasured Lela. Both men also accepted Lela as the strong woman she was. As Regent of the planet of Asiya, Lela was indeed in a powerful position, and they respected that.

The secondary characters were wonderful as well! I especially liked Sage, Zion's sister. She and Lela were not only sisters-in-law, but also best friends. Their relationship was truly special. If Sage often came across as a bit domineering (she was constantly urging Lela to move on, as 7 years had gone by after Zion's death), it was because she truly cared for Lela, and wanted her to be happy. Sage also loved her brother, and missed him terribly. This became very evident when he unexpectedly revealed himself to her, asking for her help in helping Lela to move on.

I also loved Xavier, Zion and Lela's son. He, too, was very concerned about his mother, and was very devoted to her. I felt for him, too, as he struggled with the circumstances of his father's passing, which had left him feeling embittered and angry. 

The world-building in this novel was very well done, although I did feel that it could have been more detailed. However, readers can still get a feel for the world and culture of Asiya, which are both fascinating! I especially liked all of the rituals involved in courtship. They were absolutely beautiful! 

Interestingly, there seem to be references to Greek mythology with the presence of the three Fates. These are the closest thing to gods that the Asiyans have. As in Greek mythology, the Fates control the destiny of all Asiyans, and, of course, the destiny of any off-worlders married to Asiyans, as well.

I also found it interesting that Lela's first husband is named "Zion". This is also the name of a specific mountain located near the city of Jerusalem, and the name is often used as a synonym for the city itself. Furthermore, in the Rastafari religion, which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, the name "Zion" refers directly to Ethiopia. So there's symbolism involved in the name of this character. 

I also thought that Zion's last name, "Grace" was very significant. I think it refers specifically to the grace of God, which He abundantly bestows on His children. It also has something to do with the concept of elegance and refinement in the carrying out of one's duties. Certainly Zion, as a diplomat assigned to the world of Asiya, possessed these qualities.

Lela's second husband is named "Ammon". (He has no last name; Asiyans are instead identified by their Houses, or clans.) This name actually refers to "an Iron Age Semitic-speaking nation occupying the east of the Jordan River, between the torrent valleys of Arnon and Jabbok, in present-day Jordan." (Source: Wikipedia) The Ammonites are mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis 19:37-38. "It is stated there that they descended from Ben-Ammi, a son of Lot through incest with his younger daughter. Bén'ámmî, literally means "son of my people"." (Source: Wikipedia article mentioned above)

These two names are significant for a reason. I would guess that they are meant to express the initial, strong rivalry that existed between Zion and Ammon. After all, in the Bible, the Hebrews were always contending with pagan nations. The Wikipedia article referenced above also points this out. "Throughout the Bible, the Ammonites and Israelites are portrayed as mutual antagonists. During the Exodus, the Israelites were prohibited by the Ammonites from passing through their lands. The Ammonites soon allied themselves with Eglon of Moab in attacking Israel."

How fascinating that, in this novel, Zion and Ammon, who were initially rivals, eventually came to a peaceful resolution in their mutual love for Lela, although Zion was the one she was bound to for all eternity.

The name "Sage" is also significant. Not only is this an aromatic plant, but the noun is also defined as "a profoundly wise person". (Dictionary.com) So this is a very appropriate name for Lela's sister-in-law. Not only did she do her best to soothe Lela's sorrow, which is something that alludes to the aromatic plant, but she also provided Lela with excellent advice, and always had Lela's back.

This beautiful, heartbreaking story is also poetically and sensitively told. Using a third-person narrative with several POVs, Jones weaves a tale that is vividly real, vividly poignant. It also becomes depressing at a certain point, as it seems that Lela will never be able to move beyond her sorrow. But then, the tone of the story changes to one of hope, and ends on this note. Even though the author's take on the afterlife is totally alien to me, I was able to appreciate the fact that everything came to a lovely conclusion. The great romantic cliche that "true love always wins out in the end" was beautifully depicted.

This is such an emotionally powerful novel! It's also a very philosophical one, as several themes are touched upon, such as life after death, the enduring power of love, the ideal of peace among all lifeforms in the universe, and the impact of one's legacy on future generations.

I've never read an SF novel like this one before. When I finished reading it, I did indeed feel as if I had lived this life, as if I, like Lela, had had to deal with the passing of a beloved spouse, as well as the conflicting emotions elicited by another. By the end of the book, all of the characters felt like family, with all of the lovable qualities and flaws typical of families. I was, of course, very sorry to see all of it come to an end.

At the back of the book, the author has included a beautiful short story titled "The Garden". This story was the seed from which Bound Souls sprang into full form. It focuses on the same theme as the novel, but resolves the central issue in another way. And, it, too, was very beautiful!

I highly recommend this novel, which I'm sure I will re-read at some point in the future. I am also planning to read the other PNR novels written by this highly-talented author!
  

MY RATING:







N. D. Jones lives in Maryland (USA) with her husband and two children. Having earned an M.A. in Political Science, she is a dedicated educator. She taught high school Social Studies and served as chair of the Social Studies Department. Currently, she is a Professional Development Teacher Specialist with a local Maryland school system, working on increasing student achievement through teacher and administrator efficacy. She is a lifelong learner, pursuing her doctorate in Community College Leadership.

She is the founder of Kuumba Publishing, an art, audiobook, eBook, and paperback company. Kuumba Publishing is a forum for creativity, with a special commitment to promoting and encouraging creative works of authors and artists of African descent. Her teenage daughter created the image design for Kuumba Publishing, while her son has written a role-playing game original character bio for a new paranormal romance series--making Kuumba Publishing a true family affair.

A desire to see more novels with positive, sexy, and three-dimensional African American characters as soul mates, friends, and lovers, inspired the author to take on the challenge of penning such romantic reads. She is the author of two paranormal romance series: Winged Warriors and Death and Destiny. She's also embarked on a science fiction romance series, Forever Yours. N.D. likes to read historical and paranormal romance novels, as well as comics and manga.







4 comments:

  1. Fantastic review Maria.

    The love triangle it this book sounds so interesting to read about. I think that I also might find it a bit troubling. Just reading your synopsis raises philosophical and moral questions. If one lives in reality where the departed regularly visit the living, these questions involving romantic relationships would inevitably arise. In such a Universe, it seems that marriage and lifelong romantic commitments would need to go beyond death.

    Have great week Maria!

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    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks so much for the compliment!! <3 :)

      The love triangle does sound interesting, but only to a point. I can't say more without giving spoilers. And yes, I do think you would find it troubling.

      This book does indeed raise philosophical and moral questions. It all depends on each reader's personal beliefs on the matter of life after death, and whether or not romantic commitments will endure beyond death. I want to believe that they do, of course!

      In spite of its somewhat troubling aspects, the story is beautifully written, and is very poignant and sweet, as well. Just the thing for us romantic females.... lol. But there are parts of the book that will inevitably bring tears to sensitive readers like me.

      Thanks for the insightful comment!! Hope you have a great week, too!! <3 :)

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  2. What an insightful review, Maria! Thank you. Just from your description of the love triangle in this one, I find myself unsure about it. It certainly challenges some of my own beliefs. But it sounds like the author handles it very effectively. And I like it when an author can make me think outside my own comfortable box. I am glad you enjoyed this one!

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    1. Hi, Wendy!

      Thank you SO much for such a sweet compliment!! And you're very welcome!! <3 <3 <3

      Yes, the love triangle has a bit of a problematic feature to it....I can't say more without giving out spoilers. I do think it might challenge some of your beliefs. It certainly did mine! Still, I thought it was a lovely story, and it's SO beautifully told!! I LOVE all of the characters. And some parts of the book do bring on the waterworks. It's just s powerfully emotional novel. And the love....oh, the love....it's SO BEAUTIFUL!!!

      Sometimes I like it, too, when an author makes me reach beyond my own comfort zone. It all depends, though. No author will EVER make me enjoy horror novels, for instance! Lol.

      I did enjoy this book, in spite of my initial misgivings. N.D, Jones really made me CARE about her characters! I LOVE them all!!

      Thanks for the lovely comment!! HUGS TO YOU & MOUSE!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

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