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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
The Life Siphon by Kathryn Sommerlot is the first book in The Life Siphon series. Tatsu has spent his life hiding away in his cottage, but the woods he loves are slowly dying. The neighboring kingdom of Runon has been destroying the land with a life siphon, a device that drains the energy from everything around it and takes it back into Runon. Tatsu's life is flipped upside down when his old friend, Alesh, arrives on his doorstep to ask for his help. By doing so he's arrested for crimes against the crown. When he and Alesh are dragged to the capital's prison, they're brought before the queen and offered an enticing deal. In exchange for their freedom, they have to make their way into Runon and steal the life siphon. If the journey doesn't kill them first...
Tatsu is a compelling character with a big heart, who was simply trying to help a friend when he's suddenly swept into the middle of this war between kingdoms and into the heart of this destructive magic. He kept himself isolated from everything happening around him in the kingdom, which stems from how often he's discriminated against for having Runonian heritage. He has a calm and often morally noble personality, so seeing him undergo this emotional arc and rise up against significant threats is a riveting and moving journey that shouldn't be missed. Alesh is his opposite. Where he stays out of everything, she's always into something. She's a criminal, but she's a sister first, which makes her completely sympathetic as everything she does is to take care of her sister. Sommerlot has a talent for details and precise language that introduces the strain between these two characters long before it's explained. Ral is Alesh's sister whose presence gives the story a touch of innocence by how she can still see the wonder in the world while also maintaining this wisdom where it seems like she knows everything that's about to happen.
Kathryn Sommerlot brings this stunning and brilliant world of magic and danger to life right off the page. The story opens with a calming look at the woods through Tatsu's eyes, showing the beauty and the peace of it before throwing the characters into the juxtaposition of the decay and destruction the life siphon has done to the land. It's a startling contrast, but one that is effective as it affects every character. There's a danger in both accepting and denying the queen's request, but the biggest danger seems to lie within the land itself as it comes to life in destructive and sorrowful ways. The land is in pain and quite literally is in mourning, often showing trees reaching out in desperation and wailing. Sommerlot makes the pain of the land's destruction vivid and empathetic with imagery that breaks your heart while also making the trees dangerous and gruesome. Though Tatsu faces many obstacles, it's clear his story has only just begun. The story ends in a place that will have you begging for the next part of the adventure. The Life Siphon is an unforgettable read with dazzling characters, an emotional journey, and a breathtaking adventure of bravery and friendship.