I will admit heading into this review that I have known the author for a couple decades, so granted, I'm sure I have a little bit of bias, and anyone who has read the handful of entries in my blog will be aware of this connection. Following, however, is my honest opinion of Kevin James Breaux's debut novel, Soul Born.
My personal taste when it comes to fantasy has generally been works that include a great deal of detailed worldbuilding. I love reading about history so when I consume fantasy stories about strange and exotic new worlds I often have the mindset that I looking for historical and geographical snapshots over and above a strong plotline and interesting characters. This is usually what holds my attention in fantasy, because I am always looking for clues, for a broken potsherd that tells me about the way the people in the land lived their lives.
Soul Born is a very focused novel. There are no meandering passages in this book and no exposition that isn't relevant to what's happening. There is no scenic route to get to the destination. The book is the GPS equivalent of telling you the quickest way to get from point A to point B. And baby, it makes the book ROLL.
I'll note here that it took me a little while to appreciate this characteristic. I had to put the book down half way through and think about it. Something about the style of Soul Born then clicked for me, and I enjoyed the hell out of the book. Most fantasy novels have clearly delineated good guys and bad guys, maybe some gray area third party that swings back and forth for a while until finally aligning with one group or the other for the Big Final Battle. Not so in Soul Born: these people are not out for some high falootin' grand ideal, they are, each and every one of them, pushing their own agenda. The result of this is a cast of characters that have a seeming tendency towards erratic actions, but in reality are simply adjusting their plans to the shifting tide of events in the story. If the characters, Karn and Opal in particular, realize that staying the course isn't going to get them what they want, they simply head in a different direction. It's kind of refreshing.
There's no dead wood in the plot. The characters are fun, if sometimes a little reprehensible. The book is action, action, action. It isn't your typical fantasy, and that's a good thing. It really stands out next to everything else on the shelf because it breaks all the standard fantasy tropes.