REVIEW: Soul Cage by L.R. Schulz

Soul Cage imagines a world where magic is powered by souls and transmitted through death. This new dark fantasy by Australian indie author L.R. Schulz is equal parts exciting and thought-provoking.

Soul CageSoul Cage is told from three third-person perspectives, starting with the legendary Myddrin, who had once killed the most dominant mage in the land but has now retreated from the world. Myddrin lives a secluded life as he deals with his inner demons, in both a literal and figurative sense.

My favorite character is Will, a talented and possibly neurodivergent boy who sees the world in terms of unique patterns. Will wishes to protect others by becoming a Knight of Aen, developing his magical gifts to control and enhance his powers.

Finally, Tvora is a broken warrior on the verge of losing her sanity amidst the oppressive squalor of the fighting pits. All three protagonists experience great character arcs in Soul Cage, with Tvora’s development being perhaps the most satisfying of all as she struggles to choose sides in an ensuing war.

Notwithstanding L.R. Schulz’s excellent character work, for me the highlight of Soul Cage is the magic system. Souls are the source of magical power, and they can only be taken by killing others:

“A storm of intangible globes flowed from the corpse…He felt power, raw, unimaginable power. It coursed through his veins, centred in his chest. A power born only through death.”

One of the most fascinating magical abilities in Soul Cage is the power to summon beastly apparitions. More souls lead to greater power, including the ability to summon larger apparitions such as the monstrous image-dragons.

L.R. Schulz deals with universal themes of freedom, belonging, and finding one’s purpose in life. Religion also plays an important role throughout Soul Cage. The darkest elements of the book deal with the abuse of faith that can lead to subjugation of others.

Soul Cage’s focus on the collection of souls and its societal implications reminds me a bit of the great Russian classic, Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol. However, the harvesting of souls is taken literally in L.R. Schulz’s new book.

Schulz adeptly balances internal and external conflicts throughout the novel, especially pertaining to the trapped souls themselves who haunt their keepers as they struggle for freedom:

“I don’t just want the voices to stop. I want to dominate them.”

L.R. Schulz’s prose is compulsively readable, gripping the reader from the opening page. Although I found the middle part of the book to be overly repetitive, Schulz kept me flipping through the pages to find out what happens next.

Overall, I am pleased to recommend Soul Cage to dark fantasy fans looking for an innovative magic system within a well-realized, character-driven story. Soul Cage is Book One of L.R. Schulz’s new Soulbreaker series and will be released on May 28, 2024.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.