Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Since time immemorial, Jake has been in love with his best friend, Maddox – though he’s tried to keep his feelings under wraps. According to Jake’s friends, it’s the worst kept secret, which convinces Jake that his love is not and maybe never will be returned. Nevertheless, Jake has a plan. Once he and Maddox finish their studies at Reinhold later this year, he will ask Maddox to be his roommate and hope things develop from there. All they have to do before then is complete the infamous Reinhold “challenge.” The caveat is that this challenge is more than just a mysterious way to evaluate students, it’s rumored to be a deadly test of magical acumen.

Maddox loves his best friend, Jake. Too bad he is convinced Jake could never return his feelings. Now that they’re about to face the school challenge and all the harrowing tasks that it includes, Maddox is determined to stay as close to Jake as possible. Challenge night starts off rather benign, but the tasks get increasingly difficult and ultimately send Maddox and Jake off in different directions. When they finally reconvene, Jake’s flustered with his vaguely worded task. Jake somehow manages to cause an explosive change to their relationship — and the situation might turn deadly. The only thing that can end Jake’s murderous rage is physical contact with Maddox, which buys the young men just enough time to seek help from a mysterious mage far from Reinhold.

Soulmates is the first book in Kate Munro’s eponymous Soulmates series. It’s an urban fantasy that starts in a college for mages, sends the main characters on a mini road trip, and ends in Florida swamplands. Fans of road trips, magical worlds, unrequited love, and fated lovers should enjoy the tropes and themes in this story.

The book opens strong with a vignette of Jake chasing Maddox through the woods wielding a sword and hell-bent on killing Maddox. The drama certainly whetted my appetite to understand how two best friends (not so secretly) in love with each other could have ended up in such a situation. The book proper jumps back in time a few hours to the beginning of the challenge. This provides a very perfunctory introduction to our two MCs, but they’re quickly separated by their different challenge tasks. During scenes with their respective friends, we learn the depth of Jake’s and Maddox’s feelings for one another. However, I felt like the much bigger story element was the stunning about-face Jake experienced, going from love-sick, doting friend to wanting to literally destroy Maddox.

Jake’s hot-and-cold attitude toward Maddox forms a huge part of the plot. Personally, I rather enjoyed the melodrama here. Even though it’s clear Jake and Maddox both love each other as more than just friends, the “I love you, but if I’m not touching you, I’m overcome with the desire to literally end your life” complicates things. Note, the characters have a work around where they can literally spell their hands to stay connected and keep Jake, well, Jake. During these times, Jake angsts hard over how he feels like he’s forcing himself onto Maddox. No amount of Maddox admitting he’s been in love with Jake forever is quite enough to convince Jake that it’s true. If you enjoy that kind of emotional anguish like me, then you’re in for a treat.

Apart from the romance and Jake’s crisis of identity, the story has a seemingly rich magical world. For all intents and purposes, the magical world is described well enough. Basically, there’s Jake and Maddox and all the other students at Reinhold who are learning magic through school in a very regimented fashion. In contrast, there are also untrained mages who apparently learn to use magic through trial and error. Over the course of the book, readers come to understand that the mysterious “challenge” and Reinhold is somehow connected to this magical divide. For me, this “two schools of magic” concept was neatly fitted into various points of the story, but really felt like it was a veneer laid on top the main conflict (Jake’s wild personality shift) rather than really built into the world. There was also a lot of mention of Maddox doing “research” and being one of the most powerful mages at Reinhold, but neither of these are really substantiated with backstory or plot elements that come into play.

Overall, Soulmates was mostly enjoyable, but I never quite got over feeling like I was picking up a series at the second book rather than the first. That’s due partly to how Jake and Maddox are introduced only briefly before they get called to this “challenge” and the way the challenge is never really concretely described, nor are any of the power structures in this world clearly established, even as it becomes clearer in the book that the series is going to be about power structures. To say nothing of how Maddox, his research, his power, and his family are clearly being primed for big roles later in the series.

Fans of unrequited love, forced proximity, friends-to-lovers, and urban magical fantasy stories are sure to find a lot to enjoy in Soulmates. Even though I felt a clear disconnect from the main characters, there was still plenty of back-filling on Jake and Maddox’s histories to make their struggle to love each other pretty enjoyable. If you’re looking for an angsty star-crossed lovers story that has a happy-for-now ending with a promise for big things in future installments, I think you’ll like this book.