Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Songs of The Earth

Title: Songs of The Earth

Author: Elspeth Cooper

Publisher: Gollancz

RRP: $29.99

ISBN: 9780575096158

Release Date: July 2011

Pages: 480


From the editor who brought you Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss and Kristin Cashore: Elspeth Cooper is our next fantasy star.

Gair is under a death sentence. He can hear music - music with power - and in the Holy City that means only one thing: he s a witch and he s going to be burnt at the stake. Even if he could escape, the Church Knights and their witchfinder would be hot on his heels while his burgeoning power threatens to tear him apart from within.

There is no hope...none, but a secret order, themselves persecuted almost to destruction. If Gair can escape, if he can master his own growing, dangerous abilities, if he can find the guardians of the Veil, then maybe he will be safe.

Or maybe he ll discover that his fight has only just begun.


Elspeth Cooper (Ellie) was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne. Ever since she was read Ivanhoe as a bedtime story, she has been fascinated by storytelling, even declining a place at university because she was more interested in writing than studying - much to her parents' chagrin. Now her lifelong fascination with language has been put into practice with SONGS OF THE EARTH, her first novel and the first of The Wild Hunt series


The novel follows the adventures of Gair, accused of witchcraft, who escapes with the help of Alderaan who takes a kind of magic school in islands to improve your use of the Canto. The song is a power that some people have to hear the song of the earth and to transform it into all sorts of magical things: wind, healing, transformation into animals ... and that in turn can be connected to other songs to increase their power.

Songs of the Earth may be a fantasy tale with magic, strange creatures and a hidden world beyond ours, but it's the characters that drive it forward. Gair is, of course, the hero of the tale, and one that is exceptionally strong at what he can do. However, he's got the recognisable background of orphan who doesn't know his parents - a sure sign that he's destined for greatness. But Gair is an interesting character, one that has never had a home and has had to hide his magical powers from everyone around him.

Songs of the Earth is very well written and sufficiently involving with strong characterisation. It doesn't pull out too many surprises at this stage, the first book in the inevitable trilogy clearly doing all the scene setting, but striking a good balance between Gair's coming-of-age story and keeping up the key players and developments in the various locations. At the same time it avoids the worst sword and sorcery excesses and medieval "forsooth" dialogue of the genre, feeling fresher and much more naturalistic in a setting that is historically familiar, but also has resonance with present-day religious fundamentalism. A good start, an enjoyable read, and now that the setting has been well-established, there's the promise of a lot more to come.

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