Monday, April 23, 2012

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

Published February, 2012.

Author website.

The Book of Eador, Abjurations 12:14, is very clear: Suffer ye not the life of a witch. For a thousand years, the Church Knights have obeyed that commandment, sending to the stake anyone who can hear the songs of the earth. There are no exceptions, not even for one of their own. 

 Novice Knight Gair can hear music no one else can, beautiful, terrible music: music with power. In the Holy City, that can mean only one thing: death by fire—until an unlikely intervention gives him a chance to flee the city and escape the flames. 

 With the Church Knights and their witchfinder hot on his heels, Gair hasn’t time to learn how to use the power growing inside him, but if he doesn’t master it, that power will tear him apart. His only hope is the secretive Guardians of the Veil, though centuries of persecution have almost destroyed their Order, and the few Guardians left have troubles of their own.

 For the Veil between worlds is weakening, and behind it, the Hidden Kingdom, ever-hungry for dominion over the daylight realm, is stirring. Though he is far from ready, Gair will find himself fighting for his own life, for everyone within the Order of the Veil, and for the woman he has come to love.  (

I tried.  I really, really did.  I WANTED to like SONGS OF THE EARTH, despite the utter creepfest on the cover.  Fantasy is what I write.  I want to be inspired by the fantasy I read.  And I tried.  I gave it more leeway, read a little further than I would have normally because it's adult fantasy (not sexy times adult, just not YA) and thus carries more fat.  It can take longer to get into the story.  So I was patient.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  By the 300 page mark I was done waiting.  I couldn't stand in the rain any longer.  I closed the book for good.

It was just so unbelievably dull I found myself falling asleep more times than not, not to mention kind of grumbling as I picked it up to keep reading.  After my hopes fell I didn't WANT to read it anymore.  But I kept trudging because maybe . . . nope.  And it's written in that standard "this is how fantasy novels should be written" voice that pretty much blends all the characters together and everyone sounds like they stepped out of Oxford in 1562 or something.  The only voice that really stood out to me was Darin's.  A spunky little thing that was blooming with personality.  If only there were more of him.  There wasn't.  I got Gair who's about as fascinating as a stump.

For 300 pages I read about people traveling, complaining about others and nominally conspiring.  Perhaps it was me zoning out while I read but not too much got absorbed.  The "conspiring" I felt was lackluster, not even a proper lady's gasp-worthy.  Gair's plight was so convoluted in stilted text that I just didn't care.  When some magic started appearing I was focusing far more on how much the voice bored me than anything that was going on.  He and one of his teachers transformed into animals together and he and another student got into a sword fight.  That's the extent of it.  There's some talk of the Veil and that thinning and stuff getting through but it's lost in the words.  I barely found it.

The story alternates POVs from Gair to one of the Gatekeepers of the Veil and then to the big nasty at the head of the kingdom that keeps everyone in a religious furor.  And the religion?  Far too Christian to be anything but Christian.  Sure, some words in the prayers were swapped out and the one god was a female but let's not call it something it's not.  It's thinly-veiled Christianity.  Why this book wasn't set during the Inquisition I have no idea.  That would make far more sense than ripping all of those elements and setting in a different "world."  Of which I wasn't thrilled with on the whole.  It had some potential but since its religion was overbearing it tended to overshadow everything else around it.  There were some token villages, horse-riding and the like.  Nothing special, really.

I started reading SONGS OF THE EARTH all super amped.  Yes!  A high fantasy!  I could get inspired!  And then my flower slowly, and then more quickly, started to wilt as I kept reading.  My own fault for getting my hopes up but quite frankly I expect a little more coming from the fantasies I read.  I'm not even harping on the whole Chosen One Syndrome but just written in a way that doesn't cure insomnia.  Who is spreading the vicious lie that fantasies need to be written in such stilted language?  I shall hunt him or her down.

Anyway, some might have more patience for it but in a book of about 450 pages with nothing more going on by page 300, that's the patience of a saint right there.  I commend you.  I couldn't do it.

Ban Factor: High - Bastardization of Christianity with magic.  That is all.
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