Fragments of your Soul by E.S. Erbsland
Publisher: RunesAndLetters (2015)
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Shape-shifters, runes, and mystical creatures all collide to create an engaging story in E.S. Erbsland’s fantasy novel Fragments of your Soul. Lovers of the fantasy genre and anything relating to magic will not be disappointed by this compelling plot-line.

The tale begins by showing the protagonist, Arvid, a woman who is almost thirty, feeling trapped by a mundane life. Her desire is granted to her when she falls through a portal into an alternate dimension. The utter weirdness of her new dwelling is dangerous and repugnant. Grieving for her mother, she longs for all that is familiar. She burns with livid anger at the “gods” who created these portals, but claim they don’t know how to un-create them … or send someone back.

Instead of showing the demanded reverence for these gods, she shows contempt and fury. To her, the concept that the gods are good and deserve obedience is utterly false. The story reveals fragments of one powerful male character’s soul little by little as he interacts with Arvid. She has something he needs to accomplish his goal. Is he good? Will he help her? Or is he ruled by a devious heart?

Readers watch magic powers develop within some characters, and learn about runes, the written language of this world––and runes which are tools used to create magic. We meet gods, humans, demons, cave worms, dwarves, giants, and shape-shifters. Immersed in this new foreign world, the reader experiences Arvid’s adventures eliciting fear, loss, pain, horror, anger, guilt, and love.

The Shadow World designed in the novel creates vivid pictures of a place totally foreign to readers, but one that our imagination accepts. Nonetheless, readers will be drawn in by how realistic the world is. Each word engages the five senses and racks up an emotional response that creates an unbreakable connection to the protagonist. Readers will wonder if they could endure Arvid’s tragedy, and they will hope that she will pull through.

Arvid doesn’t give up on her quest to return home, but at times she comes close to defeat. Readers will cringe when they measure her courage against their own. While she navigates through ordeals, reader empathy grows for her exhaustion in the fight, for the bitter cold, and for her loneliness. Arvid’s goals and motivations are clear, driving her through tremendous hardships. The characters interacting with Arvid let us know who she is and how she thinks.

Readers can also expect to be enthralled by the carefully crafted plot. Unexpected conflict boils and simmers throughout the novel and seduces readers into turning the next page. Many settings and characters exist in the story, but they are so well introduced that the reader maintains a vivid picture and remembers them when referenced again. The multiple types of beings and their interactions reveal how the Shadow World functions.

Erbsland has crafted a thought-provoking novel that will engross readers of fantasy and beyond. This reviewer looks forward to continuing reading this riveting story in the second novel of the Mirror Worlds series.
Reviewer’s Note: This book is recommended for readers over seventeen due to some brief sexual content.