cover image Thief of Souls

Thief of Souls

Neal Shusterman. Tor Books, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85507-9

In this low-key sequel to Shusterman's well-received fantasy, Scorpion Shards (1995), the five living Star Shards, whose souls are ""the shattered fragments of the star Mentarus-H, which went supernova nova, at the moment each...was conceived,"" have shuffled off the soul-sapping parasites of their previous adventure and assumed the incarnation of gifted adolescents. Dispersed across America, each Shard attempts to live a relatively quiet life, but their luminous spirits are a beacon to the Bringer, an extradimensional demon who hungers for human souls. In the guise of Okoya, an androgynous mystic, the Bringer follows Winston Pell, Tory Smythe, Lourdes Hidalgo and Michael Lipranski to San Simeon, Calif., where Shard leader Dillon Cole has reunited them due to his presentiments of a disruption in the cosmic pattern. Manipulating individual vanities, the Mephistophlian Okoya orchestrates the Shards' development into a multicultural team of misguided miracle workers who nearly put their self-interest before the endangered fate of the world. Echoes of classical and Christian mythology reverberate throughout this tale of fallible messiahs and fallen creatures, giving it an uncommonly solid subtext. Veteran fantasy fans may find its plot a composite of familiar quest themes, but younger readers will likely be drawn to its youthful protagonists, whose maturation and growth is marked by their responsible mastery of extraordinary talents. It is for this readership that Shusterman seems to be setting up future tales, in which the surviving Shards will no doubt be a bit older and a lot wiser. (Apr.)