Title: The Soul Mender (The Soul Mender Trilogy) (Volume 1)
Author: R.S. Dabney
Publisher: Red Pen Warriors Publishing
ISBN: 978-0692472019
Pages: 390
Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

Reviewed by: Joe Kilgore

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Famous crime writer Jim Thompson is credited with having said, “There is only one plot in all of literature—things are not as they seem.” There is perhaps no more appropriate description than that for R.S. Dabney’s inaugural novel The Soul Mender. This is a fantasy thriller that thoroughly cranks up the volume on the fantasy and doesn’t pull any punches on the thrills. Just when you think you may really know what’s going on, environments and events conspire to convince you otherwise, and if you think you’re having a hard time keeping your wits about you, it’s nothing compared to the trials and tribulations Dabney’s heroine is going through.

Riley is a young college student on the eve of graduation. It should be a happy time for her but she’s beset by frightening dreams that not only disturb her sleep, but also come upon her without warning when she’s often wide awake. The dreams are incredibly real and seem to transport her to strange worlds.  As she tries to make sense of them she begins to believe that they may portend the future. If they do, horrifying consequences lay in wait.  These fantastic visions soon make her question her own sanity, but before she’s able to determine whether she’s going mad or not, her world is quite literally turned upside down.

Without revealing specifics of the decidedly weird twists and turns that begin to come at readers like a tidal wave, let’s just say that it’s definitely impossible to know exactly what is going to happen next.  The author does a commendable job of using subplots as tributaries to a plot stream that flows in and out of visions, serial killings, teleportation, potential World War III, extraordinary religious lineage, even parallel universes.

Her principal characters are kept down to earth—in a manner of speaking.  There’s the boy she pines for, the roommate she adores, the family she loves, the friendly policeman, the demented murderer, the evil foreigner, the stalwart politician, and more. Of course in this topsy-turvy tale, don’t expect any of them to necessarily stay the way you find them.

Fantasy thrillers require an absolute willing suspension of disbelief. So if yours isn’t willing, this tome may not be for you. However, if you’re the kind of reader who appreciates a soaring imagination and grand adventures that slip the moorings of space and time, you’re likely to be in for quite a ride.  Also if this sort of fare is to your taste, don’t worry about having your appetite filled too rapidly.  Dabney promises this is but book one in The Soul Mender Trilogy.