It’s time for another post on books! Thus far I’ve read 13 books in April, including the three books I mentioned in my last post (The End of All Things, Songkeeper and Oakleaf Bearers). In the Ranger’s Apprentice series I’ve finished Erak’s Ransom and am now awaiting The Kings of Clonmel at my local ebook library, which should be available again in two days’ time.
Today I’m reviewing four books: Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Kinsman Chronicles and Songkeeper.
Darkness Reigns, The Heir War, & The End of All Things
The gods are angry.
Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers–everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father’s superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful First Arm of Armania.
When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?
Williamson is excellent at worldbuilding and character motivation. Her world is fresh and tangible, her characters distinct and well-developed. Wilek is probably my favourite so far. Each character has a part to play in the story and a sense of closure at the end, and the character growth is very well done. One remarkable character arc was that of Oli Agoros, who regrets the life he’s chosen and the master he’s chosen to serve. At the end of the book he makes a decision to stop being controlled, and although it doesn’t solve every problem in his life, it’s a step in the right direction. I hope to see him grow in the next six parts of the Kinsman Chronicles.
The thematic conflict was well resolved. In Chapter 1, we see the superstitious Rosâr Echad sacrifice a criminal to the god Barthos in the Grey, which I believe is the same thing as Darkness in Williamson’s other series from this world, Blood of Kings. In the climax, Wilek is victorious over this. There are so many story threads from the first chapter resolved in the climax that I can just sit back and marvel. Excellently done, Jill Williamson.
The post-climax events of The End of All Things felt drawn out. After the climax, there is a lot to tie up, and the end of the book lacks the stakes that were resolved in the climax. Granted, this is written as one very long book, and there are smaller stakes at hand, but I still felt the end could have been clearer. On content, one of the villains is trying to seduce the main character so that their baby can fulfil an ancient prophecy, so I would recommend an older target audience for this series. 15+ or something. (As it was with the other series of Williamson’s I reviewed, Blood of Kings.) There is nothing in the books I found gratuitous, but be warned that there is a small amount of sexual content.
I would recommend this book to people of an appropriate age and maturity. As a token of how much I like this series, I’ve already preordered Parts 4, 5 and 6: Kingdom at Sea, Maelstrom, and Voices of Blood.
Gillian Bronte Adams
War ravages Leira and the Song has fallen silent.
Freed from the hold of a slave ship, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, and Ky, a street–wise thief, emerge to a world at war. Hordes of dark soldiers march across Leira, shadowed by whispers of plague and massacres, prompting Ky to return to his besieged home city in hopes of leading his fellow runners to safety.
Desperate to end the fighting, Birdie embarks on a dangerous mission into the heart of the Takhran’s fortress. Legend speaks of a mythical spring buried within and the Songkeeper who will one day unleash it to achieve victory. Everyone believes Birdie is the one, but the elusive nature of the Song and rumors of other gifted individuals lead her to doubt her role. Unleashing the spring could defeat the Takhran once and for all, but can she truly be the Songkeeper when the Song no longer answers her call?
Songkeeper is an emotional book. Infused within its pages are hope and despair, joy and sorrow, horror and wonder. Her character development resonates. Her wordcraft is fine-tuned, melodious, evocative. Adams hits the perfect pitch of emotions in this book and ends on a note of quiet awe and longing.
The story was shorter than many other books in its genre, but Adams manages to develop her cast of characters well in that time. Amos, Birdie, Gundhrold, Ky, Cade—the characters we know and love from the last book—return. (And Meli. Yes. We saw more of Meli!) Adams introduces new characters. Migdon, who was remarkably well done from the very beginning. Sym, a strong and loyal young warrior. Inali, a young warrior-artist who has suffered so much. As the story goes on, we see more of where Inali has come from, and everything he does is so poignant, so relatable, so human. I hope to see him again in the third book.
We got to see the Takhran in this book, which I liked. There are many main villains who stand back and let their minions conquer the world for them. The Takhran doesn’t stand back—he stands out. He has an active plan and is following it. He takes precautions against the people he knows to be dangerous. And despite all his evil deeds and goals, the Takhran is portrayed as a person. Not as an inhuman force of evil, but a very human villain. Sociopathic in that he shows no conscience, but still human.
A few minor spoilers around the climax in this paragraph. Probably the largest issue I have with the book is the lack of closure. Songkeeper brings up a lot of questions and answers few of them. From the start we know that the Song has fallen silent, but the book refuses to explain why. The climax felt anticlimactic in that Birdie accomplishes nothing significant. A climax is where the story goal is completed, but in Songkeeper it’s almost as though Birdie fails her mission. She reaches where she needs to go and attempts what she needs to do, but the villain’s power is too much and she fails. I get that it’s the second book in what I expect will be a trilogy, which means Adams can begin at a low place in the third book and work up to a final victory, but still I felt the climax could have been improved here.
I have one quibble about the covers in this series. The font used for the Orphan’s Song cover is not the same as the one used for Songkeeper. I am a graphic designer and a perfectionist. I notice. I agonise. I hope the third book will use the same font as either one of them. *silent pleading*
Just a funny story about the Songkeeper Chronicles: A few years ago I planned a series called the Song Chronicles. Very similar in structure to Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper’s Curse of the Spider King, the series focused around a girl known as the Keeper of Songs in her home world. It had dinosaur people, language and song magic, and an ancient group of warriors called Blademasters who found and trained the Keeper of Songs to fight evil. Very much like the Berinfell Prophecies down to the unfolding claws of Drefids. I gave those to the dinosaur people…yeah.
Also, the last scene of Songkeeper has strong similarities to the end of The Teller’s Apprentice, the project I’ve been working on for the past year. The scenic structure is practically identical in both, although mine is much more drawn out.
Have you read these books? Tell me what you thought of them!
What other books have you been reading recently?