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Prelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar – A Book Review

Oh bejeebus. I’ve written a review for Helene Dunbar’s Prelude for Lost Souls review four times now, and the internet has crashed or WordPress has frozen. And then there was that time that I had the whole thing done on NetGalley – and then NetGalley refreshed and my review disappeared before I could submit. Each time my work has gone into the ether, and then I forget that I have to rewrite it – again – so I hope that I can capture all the magic that was Prelude for Lost Souls without needing to read it again.

I received an advanced digital copy of this book from Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley; all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.

Prelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar – A Book ReviewPrelude for Lost Souls by Helene Dunbar
on August 1, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, LGBT
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon

"Ghost story, love story, and mystery in equal measure, Helene Dunbar's Prelude for Lost Souls is filled with unforgettable characters who reveal the many ways a life can be haunted. Perfect for fans of The Raven Boys."--Lisa Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Magician series

From acclaimed author Helene Dunbar comes the start of a spellbinding young adult series about a small town filled with spiritualists and one boy who wants out, perfect for readers who want teen ghost books and fans of Maggie Stiefvater, Maureen Johnson, and Nova Ren Suma.

In the town of St. Hilaire, most make their living by talking to the dead. In the summer, the town gates open to tourists seeking answers while all activity is controlled by The Guild, a sinister ruling body that sees everything.

Dec Hampton has lived there his entire life, but ever since his parents died, he's been done with it. He knows he has to leave before anyone has a chance to stop him.
His best friend Russ won't be surprised when Dec leaves--but he will be heartbroken. Russ is a good medium, maybe even a great one. He's made sacrifices for his gift and will do whatever he can to gain entry to The Guild, even embracing dark forces and contacting the most elusive ghost in town.

But when the train of Annie Krylova, the piano prodigy whose music has been Dec's main source of solace, breaks down outside of town, it sets off an unexpected chain of events. And in St. Hilaire, there are no such things as coincidences.

Praise for Prelude for Lost Souls: "Dunbar invokes small-town intrigue and plentiful atmosphere with this haunting, romantic tale."--Publishers Weekly
"A quietly compelling story."--Kirkus Reviews
"Mesmerizing and haunting, Dunbar invites readers into a world of family secrets, anxious ghosts and a society's ruthless grasp for power that will leave you wanting more."--The Nerd Daily


My Thoughts On Prelude for Lost Souls

I really enjoyed Prelude for Lost Souls. It is an intriguing tale that unfolds quietly and steadily to pull me into the story. It is moody, atmospheric, and at times tense and emotional. While there are no massive twists or shocking reveals, there are a few curious coincidences that tie together two of the storylines (and I am still left with a question or two there.) This is a story about friendship, grief, and expectations (those we have for ourselves and what others put upon us).

The Characters

The story is told by three characters. Dec can’t wait to leave St. Hilaire and the Guild when he graduates. Russ is Dec’s best friend, and unlike Dec, is very determined to be a leader in the Guild. Annie is a talented musician who lands in St. Hilaire after the death of her mentor. (Dec is a huge fan of her music, but Annie doesn’t know this.) All three are grieving.

Two of the supporting characters are ghosts, but have very different roles in the story. Tristan is a ghost that, weirdly, none of the mediums but Dec (and odder yet, Annie) could see. Ian, on the other hand, is Russ’s ex and a ghost that everyone in town is trying to contact. (I love the LGBTQ+ rep in the book.) There’s also a haunted piano…

The Story

There are multiple storylines going on here. Dec’s and Annie’s stories intersected, while Russ had a lot of stuff going on off to the side. One storyline is tied up (not so neatly) and another has OH SO MANY questions! That’s fine, because I’m HERE for Russ’s story.

The story unfolded slowly and steadily, which was fine by me as this was a very character-driven story. All three characters are captives of one sort or another. Annie is controlled by her music, career, and agents. Dec feels trapped by the town and expectations. Russ seems to be caught between wanting to play a big role in the Guild and his friendship with Dec, as well as trying to learn more about what happened to Dec’s parents AND trying to communicate with Ian.

As mentioned earlier, the story is atmospheric and moody, but not nearly as dark and creepy as one might expect from a paranormal story set in a town of mediums who deal with the dead. That said, the book really feels more like a contemporary novel with a quirky, interesting setting and characters that you care about. Since this is the first in a series, I’m hoping we learn a lot more about The Guild and the town of St. Hilaire in the next book – which I’m looking forward to.

To that end, the Guild is ominous and sinister, but we know this mostly because we’re TOLD it is. I do wish we had a little more showing at their why: why must everyone join, why is it becoming more demanding, etc. I feel like this book was really laying the groundwork for the series, and am hoping that more of the Guild’s dark side will be revealed in the next book.


Prelude for Lost Souls quietly captivated me and I look forward to the next installment in this series.

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