February 26, 2014

Kate Harrison: "Soul Fire"

Title: Soul Fire [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Soul Beach (2nd of 3 books)
Author: Kate Harrison [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 2.5/5
Pros: As with Book 1, peculiar, potentially killer idea. Book 2 benefits from being more rooted in reality though. Also, there's more action and more mystery.
Cons: As in Book 1, execution of said peculiar, potentially killer idea ends up being stretched beyond believability. Also, some things don't add up.
WARNING! Some underage drinking.
Will appeal to: Hardcore romantics who also happen to be ardent supporters of social networks and virtual reality.

Blurb: Alice Forster regularly talks with her dead sister, Meggie, in the virtual world of Soul Beach - an online paradise where dead teenagers are held in limbo. Alice has learned that if she can solve the mystery of someone's death in the real world, then that person is released from the Beach. Meggie needs Alice to solve her murder so she can be free, but as Alice is getting closer to discovering the murderer, the murderer is getting closer to Alice! (Amazon excerpt)

Review: The second installment in the series is more focused on Alice's search for Meggie's killer - and on her attempt at freeing Javier from the Beach. Surprisingly enough, this makes for a better book in my opinion. Or maybe not so surprisingly, since 1) I wasn't able to suspend my disbelief at the next level of experience that Alice was granted when on the Beach (see end of Book 1); and 2) her love story with a dead guy really turned me off, so I was happy to have other things on my hands ;). A statement like "Danny isn't the first boy I kissed, but this is the real thing" ends up being unintentionally comic, in her predicament. 
The book opens a few months after its predecessor, and almost a year after Meggie's death-day (which, coincidentally, is also the day Alice will turn 17). A couple of major things happen...the main suspect for Meggie's murder appears on the Beach, and a website called Burning Truths starts campaigning for his innocence, claiming that he didn't commit suicide out of guilt, like most people (and the police) think. Also, Alice's mother, fed up by her Internet addiction (though she still doesn't know what her daughter does on there...), ban her from going online. Just a couple of remarks here. 1) Alice's parents realised that she has been spending an awful lot of time on the net, but apparently, they never actually walked up on her talking with the dead kids in all those months...2) In Book 1, Alice's mother was spending the whole weekends online herself, logged into a site for mourning relatives...so her attitude sounds a bit out of character now. Also, I found both Alice's parents a bit dysfunctional (especially her mother). They grieve, they leave the house giggling for a restaurant dinner; they (well, the mother) are big on Alice coming to terms with what happens when the supposed killer is found dead, they (well, the mother again) don't even leave their bedroom the day after... [...]

However, Alice finds a way to bypass the Internet ban of course - or a couple of ways, one being her geek friend Lewis (whom she hasn't told about the Beach though). And she begins to focus on her dead friend Javier, trying to find a way to help him escape the Beach, while still investigating Meggie's death and Burning Truths of course. A well-timed trip to Barcelona (Javier's town) with all the major suspects for Meggie's murder may be the key to both things...The funny twist is that, in going there, Alice is partly unburdened from her obsession with the dead, especially Danny - and this makes her all the more likeable. Also, the Barcelona chapters are really lively and nice to read - though a few too convenient things still happen (see: Javier's story and resolution). And an awful one too...
During the course of the book, some apparent clues about the Beach and its Guests are revealed. As in Book 1, sometimes the dead kids' faces look swollen and red - or that's how Alice briefly sees them. The beach bar in Barcelona is a dead ringer for the one on Soul Beach - or better, the other way around. What does all that mean? [...Sadly, nothing at all. Having already read the third installment, I can state that much].
To be more explicit would result in spoiling the book too heavily, so I'll leave it at that. On the whole, I liked Soul Fire better than Soul Beach, because it deals less with the (online) afterlife and more with flesh and blood people and real places - which may sound funny, since I decided to read this series right because it dealt with an (online) afterlife. But like I said, it was hard for me to suspend disbelief in the face of...well, a lot of things.

(Note: the GLBTQ+ tag is because of Javier's story, in case you wondered. And the murderer still gets her/his own chapters in 1st person).

For my review of "Soul Beach" (first installment in the series) click here.
For my review of "Soul Storm" (third installment in the series) click here.
For more Afterlife books click here.

Left to right: German Hardcover/Kindle cover (old crime novel style) [N.B.: with respect to
the first installment, only subtitle changes...]; Dutch Paperback cover


  1. Thanks for the two 'Soul' book reviews, very interesting! I won the first two books last year, still haven't read them yet but your review helps me decide where in the TBR pile they should go so thank you!


    1. Glad to have helped! Maybe we'll be able to compare our reactions to the books one day :).

  2. I'm intrigued by the concept of the series, but I don't know that I'll read it. As for romances with the dead... I've got The Ghost and the Goth series for that. ;)

    1. LOL, I heard of that one, but decided not to go there right because of the awkward romance...I saw you liked it though.
      However, the SB series is probably less believable, because of the virtual reality angle...


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