Exquisite. A near perfect blend of fantasy, action, adventure and magic. Finely imagined and beautifully told, Songs of The Earth by Elspeth Cooper is one greatly enjoyable and entirely captivating debut fantasy novel. I had a wonderful time reading it. Thanks to Cooper's excellent and engaging storytelling, it didn't take long for me to become totally immersed in the plot. All the characters were carefully depicted, with a mixture of qualities and flaws that really made them jump off the page. The settings were vivid and painted with an exceptional care for details. I could almost feel the cold wind on my skin and hear the glorious song of power and magic. And it felt amazing. And it made me crave more. Mesmerizing - that would be the word. But also adventurous, at times scary and disquieting, thematically poignant, moving, even slightly philosophical. Beautiful. It was, in every sense of the word, an epic story and an exciting beginning to a promising new series.
Suffer ye not the life of a witch and shun ye all works of evil lest they imperil thy soul.
Gair can hear the Song. Which basically means he is a witch. He can touch the songs of the earth and weave magic. Unfortunately, the world he's been born into is a cold and unforgiving one, where practicing magic equals besmirching the sanctity of the Suvaeon Order and is punishable by death. And no one cares about Gair's loyalty to the Lady and his many years of service to the Church. All that matters is that he has performed acts of witchcraft for which he must be punished. Burned. While Gair is doing his best to stay alive, the magic inside him is breaking free and he has to do something with it, has to learn how to embrace it and get it under control, otherwise he'll burst. His only hope lies in the Guardians of the Veil, a secret and well-hidden society that holds the knowledge of the Song. In order to learn how to master his gift, he has to find them, and he has to do it quick. And that's only just the beginning of the many dangers and adventures he'll have to face.
This was, hands down, one of the most wonderful fantasy books I have read in the past few years. I wasn't even 50 pages into this book before it downed on me that I am beginning something truly extraordinary. And the feeling stayed with me all the way to the end, leaving me impressed, amazed, slightly dazed and ultimately satisfied. Cooper's writing style is nothing short of spellbinding. It draws you in, holds your attention, gets you emotionally involved in the characters' story and leaves you breathless. And begging for more. There's no denying the fact that this lady have nailed her debut in a way that you really don't see very often. For that, and for the way she she brought all her characters to life and made me care about them, I am giving her a well-deserved standing ovation.
I'm not even sure what I loved more about this book - the way the story was driven by the beautifully fleshed out, convincing characters, or the way the events smoothly unfolded, allowing me to take pleasure in exploring all the intricacies of the plot. Or maybe it was the whole new concept of magic that won me over, or perhaps the chilling witch hunts and inquisition. Or maybe I'm just a total sucker for thrilling adventures and epic quests, sprinkled with danger and occasional humor. Whatever it was, it was good.
Gair's journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance was also very interesting to read about. His whole life he's been taught that magic is a sin. Every prayer he has learned was meant to steer him away from it. But when he heard the music, he couldn't resist opening his heart to it, it felt too good, too euphoric not to give in. And he struggled with that a lot. When we meet him, he's still not entirely sure whether he's a sinner, well-deserving of the punishment he's about to receive, or just an innocent victim with a gift. He has to face the cruelty of the world around him, all the while battling demons of his own. Trying to find his place in the world. And it was absolutely fascinating to be able to accompany him on this journey and see him transform from a scared, confused man with not much hope for the future, into a strong, confident, powerful character, ready to take on whatever new challenges are thrown his way.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Songs of The Earth and I hope you realized by now that this is a title that simply must be on your shelf. I can't wait for the next installment!