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Soul of the World: The Ascension Cycle    by David Mealing order for
Soul of the World
by David Mealing
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2017 (2017)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

David Mealing's Soul of the World is the first in a new fantasy series, The Ascension Cycle. Plot strands develop three main characters, who grow in power through this first episode. The story opens in spring in New Sarrasant, a colonial capital.

The first that we meet is artist Sarine, who has a familiar (scaled Zi) and can pull magic from leyline connections. Her country has declared war on Gand and food is scarce and costly in the capital. Sarine survives by selling her sketches and keeps her talent a secret, as the law requires binders to be marked and to serve the crown. She admires handsome Lord Revellion from a distance. One day, she spots a red-coated man, Reyne d'Agarre, handing out food; he controls a powerful magic.

Next we meet female cavalry officer Erris (who has a strong healing power) fighting in Gand territory - they've been at war for six months. She has a bondsteed, Jiri. Erris has little respect for her superior officer, and does what she thinks best for her troops. Now she's up against a force led by a commander whose 'eyes glow gold'. A new and powerful binding that might change the course of the war? Their opponents commit atrocities, and Erris learns the power that makes her own eyes glow gold.

Guardian Arak'Jur can conjure the powers of beasts he has slain and is a protector of his people. D'Agarre comes among his folk, offering 'Peace, and power.' A handful of youths accept his offer to 'see if they could learn his strange serpent's magic'. Arak'Jur finds an apprentice, and has visions. His people begin to find themselves at odds with the spirits who normally guide them, and seek alliances with other tribes of like mind. Tribes start slaughtering others - how can Arak'Jur protect his people?

Much of this episode sets the stage for what will follow, though each lead's story progresses as they come into their powers. They gradually realize that they are embroiled in a war between gods - and those who desire ascendance to godhood. The episode culminates in a battle of swords and magic in New Sarrasant. The Ascension Cycle is a new fantasy series worth following for its innovative magic, convoluted plot, and heroic leads.

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