Book Review: Soulless (Once Wicked Book 1) by Sarah J. Pepper

When Piper fell in love with Declan, AKA Rumplestiltskin, she didn't realize the havoc it would wreak on her life and how much it would change her---literally. Sharing the incubus curse with him means she has to drain people of their lives in order to live hers, but Piper doesn't know if she's capable of living that way, and she doesn't know if her relationship with Declan is capable of withstanding all the problems between them.

Book Review: Soulless (Once Wicked Book 1) by Sarah J. Pepper | books, reading, book covers, book reviews, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, retellings, rumplestiltskin, demons
Title: Soulless
Book Number: Book 1 of TBA
Pages: 238
My Rating: 1 Star
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon


*I received a free ecopy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I wanted to like this book, and I really thought I would. It’s a retelling of, or at least inspired by, Rumplestiltskin, something I’ve never come across before. And I love retellings, especially unique ones!

But this book was not for me.

One big issue I had was that the writing style did a lot of telling instead of showing and was kind of a breaking of the fourth wall. It felt like I was sitting and having a conversation with someone. Here, I can show you some examples…

But that wasn’t why I was attracted to Declan. If I’d been just another gold digger, he would have sucked away my life’s essence after he hunted me down.

Had I forgotten to mention that I’d pickpocketed him the first time we met? Yeah…I left home. I couldn’t stand to live with Emilie another minute longer.

If anything, I was overcome by a thousand different feelings at once. Some were complex. Like survivor’s guilt for living through an impossible night. Self-loathing for enjoying the consumption of another person’s life. Gratitude for Declan’s unconditional love. Accountability for asking him to trade his freedom to stay with me.

I understand that some people may like that, but I’m not one of those people. And because the pages were filled with these conversational inner monologues, it felt to me like very little actually happened.

I also spent a lot of time just being confused. One character would do something, then another character would say something, then the first would respond… but I couldn’t figure out how any of the things were actually related or how we got from point A to point B. And the characters thoughts and emotions and dialogue would constantly jump from one extreme to another which just further confused me because, again, I didn’t understand how the characters were making these transitions, what the connections were, especially so suddenly.

A good editor would also have been helpful. There weren’t just typos, there were completely incorrect words being used, like “precariously” instead of “vicariously.” Normally I’m not a huge stickler for typos, but these were distracting to me.

One last thing, this might be nitpicky, but if an immortal creature were trying to keep the fact that he’s an immortal creature secret, he wouldn’t make himself famous. I have it on good authority (i.e. paranormal creatures in other books I’ve read) that this is a big no-no. He was worried about people suspecting something if his injuries healed too fast, but what are they going to think 50 years from now when he looks exactly the same? Or 200 years from now when they find an old photo or video of him and he’s still alive?

So overall, as I said, this really just didn’t work for me.


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  1. Bookworm Brandee

    Oof! I’m afraid this one wouldn’t work for me either, Kristen. I am not a fan of telling rather than showing. In fact, it might be one of my biggest pet peeves. And the editing…honestly that’s another if there is too many issues. Oh, and your mention of the big no-no… Yeah, it all sounds like one big hot mess. I’m sorry you wasted time on it but I appreciate you pre-screening it for me. 😉

    1. Kristen Burns

      I hate writing negative reviews, but it was a review copy. And I figured the silver lining was that I could maybe help other people who have the same taste as me avoid reading a book they wouldn’t like which is just better for everyone in the end. Luckily it didn’t take too much time since it was short!

  2. Lola

    I am not a fan of retellings, but Rumpelstiltskin is an original one. I don’t think I’ve sene a retelling for that one before. The cover for this one is kinda interesting and weird at the same time, with the half faces. I don’t like too much telling, if books have a bit of telling that’s okay, but there also needs to be enough showing. I can see why you didn’t enjoy this one. I dislike it when books are confusing, it sounds like this book could’ve used a good editor. And that sounds so weird that an immortal would make himself famous, how can you try and keep your immortality a secret when you get famous. Indeed most immortal books focus on staying out of the spotlight. I hope your next read is a better one!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It is an original one! That’s what I was all excited, but it disappointed me. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s an odd choice for an immortal creature to purposely make himself famous. I was afraid maybe I just read too many paranormal books and was the only person who would think about that lol.

  3. Daniela Ark

    Oh.., nope! I agree Kristen! two golden rules broken! Show don’t tell and paranormal creature behavior 101 🙂
    So you had never read a Rumplestiltskin retelling before? Then Check out Laura’s books [a fellow book blogger]. I’m sure she’d love to give you copies for a review! Mine (4-star review) is scheduled for next week. Nothing like helping promote a fellow book blogger 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, I want to be shown, not told!

      I appreciate the recs, and I do like helping fellow bloggers, but I just don’t really do short stories or anthologies. It often takes me numerous full length books to really get into a story and fall in love with the characters, so I really just can’t connect with shorts.

  4. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    Not sure this would work for me either, Kirsten. And I agree, the premise sounds really good, so I would definitely have expectations.
    Telling rather than showing is something I don’t enjoy too much either, and it really does slow down the pace of a story most of the time.
    I hope your next read was fun!

  5. Greg

    Aww that’s a bummer. It sounds like an interesting concept but sometimes it’s just not the right book. I hate it when I really want to like a book and the writing style or whatever just doesn’t work for me. I haven’t read that many fairy tale retellings myself and I can see where they would be fun, but yeah there’s always the occasional clunker. I’m not super fond of the cover art on this one either, for some reason. Maybe just me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, it’s always a bummer when that happens, when you think you’re gonna like a book because of the premise but then it just doesn’t work for you. I didn’t used to like retellings, but I love them now! It’s funny how our tastes kinda change like that sometimes. As for the cover, I don’t actively dislike it, but I don’t particularly like it either. I guess I just feel apathetic toward it lol.