In the world of Tril, on the continent of Kokoro, there is a hidden academy. Away from the eyes of the Unskilled, Barrons and Healers are trained to be ready for battle with the evil overlord Darrek. Every Healer is Soulbound to a Barron. If one of them dies, the other can still be Bound to another partner.
Kaya is a Healer forced to join the academy to save her parents, who are both Barrons (as this is illegal). Her Soulbound Barron died without her ever knowing him, but at the academy, she is bound to a heartbroken good-looking boy, Trayton.
Once they are bound, Kaya can't help but fall for him, and he is completely devoted to her. But is it love, or is she just pretending because she knows she can't ever break free of this ridiculous system?
Trayton learns how to fight, while Kaya kind of learns to heal, and Kaya is certain that she needs to learn how to defend herself. She finds someone willing to break Protocol and teach a Healer: the fighting instructor, Darius, an Unskilled who seems to have a grudge against Kaya. Also he is of course her own age and drop-dead gorgeous. (But then so is Trayton.)
All the while they've got to deal with attacks by Graplars, large monsters sent by Darrek to destroy Healers in specific. Kaya doesn't know her feelings, she doesn't know if she'll see her parents again, she's not sure if she can make it through the boring history class, and she doesn't know if she'll even make it to continue the struggle next week.
So it's a teen-drama romance fantasy. But the problem is that the fantasy is interesting, and the romance is not. I would like to read more about the world set-up. If I have to read any more about Kaya... I couldn't stand it. She is really, really irritating. Not to say she isn't realistic -- she is the most realistic character in the whole book (maybe the only realistic character), but she is annoying.
Several times she declares (either to herself or to others) that she can take care of herself. Obviously, she can't. She always has to be rescued. She has even admitted that she can't take care of herself -- and a few pages later goes on to wonder why Trayton needs to protect her, as she can take care of herself.
And that's a good question -- why isn't Trayton there to protect her? The Graplars are somehow getting into the school. Kaya is attacked, Darius saves her. Kaya is attacked again (boy does she get into trouble), and again Trayton isn't there. But they have an argument where he objects to her wanting to learn to fight, she says she has a right to protect herself, and he says he's supposed to protect her, and for some reason she doesn't pull up the fact that he wasn't there to protect her before. She just keeps insisting she should be able to defend herself.
And she does learn. In fact she learns surprisingly quick. I wonder if this is explained in a sequel because it wasn't here. (But you do get to figure out how the Graplars are getting into the school, and why Darius behaves the way he does towards Kaya.)
Most of the story -- that is, the situations -- were contrived. Trayton's childhood friend Melanie has a party, just so Kaya can once again see Melanie flirt with Trayton. Characters overhear each other and stumble across each other at the right moments, masks that stay on during battle get pulled off by someone, etc., and the ending was ridiculous.
It's a fantasy world, but the characters don't act very different, the food terms are the same, it was a lot like reading a high-school drama. (Cutting out Melanie actually would have made it a lot better.) The swearwords were different... but not different enough. The book is littered with phrases such as 'what the fak' and 'he's a dek' and it's not like anyone can't tell what she means. Cutting these down significantly would have improved my mood toward the book.
SOULBOUND was like a shojo manga/anime. That's what it reminded me of. One of those that isn't very good but you read anyway because you want to see what happens next. The book really irritated me, but I did read it all the way through, which says something.
If the sequel would develop the world more, and have better dialog, I may be interested enough to read it.