Author: Tina LeCount Myers
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
I received a copy of this book from the publicist agency Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.
I had high hopes going into The Song Of All for a number of reasons:
- Scandinavian setting – not your typical Western European one
- Lots of snow (I LOVE snow)
- Music as a subtext to the narrative
- mortals vs. immortals (I like un underdog)
Unfortunately the muses didn’t call out to me on this one which is sad because I REALLY wanted to love it.
“On the forbidding fringes of the tundra, where years are marked by seasons of snow; humans war with immortals in the name of their shared gods. Irjan, a human warrior, is ruthless and lethal, a legend among the Brethren of Hunters. But even legends grow tired and disillusioned.
Scarred and weary of bloodshed, Irjan turns his back on his oath and his calling to hide away and live a peaceful life as a farmer, husband, and father. But his past is not so easily left behind. When an ambitious village priest conspires with the vengeful comrades Irjan has forsakedn, the fragile peace in the Northlands of Davvieana is at stake.
His bloody past revealed, Irjan’s present unravels as he faces an ultimatum: return to hunt the immortals or lose his child. But with his son’s life hanging in the balance, as Irjan follows the tracks through the dark and desolate snow covered forests, it is not death he searches for, but life.”
One thing I liked about the plot for The Song Of All is that it threw in a twist early on. Based on the blurb above I was expecting it to go in one direction and within the first few chapters all of a sudden the whole plotline seemed to be in question. Some readers might really dislike an early deviation like that, but when the synopsis on jacket covers often give away too much I kinda like it when something like this happens and the rest of the story is free to surprise me. Eventually the narrative came back around to the stated plotline but for a while there as a reader I was in uncharted territory as it were and I liked it.
Where The Song of All went wrong for me in terms of the overall story was after a little over midway through the novel I couldn’t figure out what it wanted to be about and where it was going. Now I know you’re gonna say, “Jason…right above here you said you liked the plot deviation” and yeah I did say that. This however wasn’t a plot twist as much as the overall arc and thrust of the story. Long before the book ends the stated plotline gets resolved (for better or worse)…and then it keeps going. I’ll say more in pacing below, but it kinda felt like more wordcount should have been given to the first half or three quarters of the book and then the rest split off to form the beginning of book two in the series. Now I know I say that without knowing whatsoever what Myers plans for the rest of the series, but it really felt like I got most of a full book one, and part of a book two.
Myers’ writing style was clear and to the point for the most part. I say, “for the most part” that because she does throw a lot of words foreign to the English speaking ear into the text which can be a little confusing at first, but if you’re willing to go with it you’ll find it adds to the storytelling. Fitting in with the Scandinavian influence of the world is a vocabulary used throughout that is Scandinavian in origin. Somewhere I came across what the language is, but now I’ve lost that note. My point however is that yes using a foreign vocabulary over and over can be jarring at first, but if you keep plugging on you’ll discover it adds a depth to the story that didn’t exist before. The way Myers does it is much like learning a modern language in an immersive style. There is no glossary at the end of the book to refer to; instead you learn as you go by seeing words in repeated usage. At first I didn’t like not having a glossary but it grew on me and is one of the aspects of her writing I enjoyed.
Beyond the unfamiliar terminology the rest of Myers writing fit the story. It is told in the third person from alternating points of view but predominantly for Irjan’s perspective.
There were some aspects of Myers’ writing that grated on me however. The thing I hated the most was something that might be trivial for most people but it really got in the way of the story for me. The book is set in a northern clime and there’s snow. This was a positive for me at first. I grew up in Florida where it doesn’t snow and one thing I love about where I live now is we get snow on a regular basis in winter. I love the snow and I’ve learned a few things about it. One is that there are few landscapes as beautiful as a space of ground after a freshly fallen snow before anyone or anything has trampled it. A smooth white blanket upon the ground. Another thing I’ve learned is that once anyone or anything walks across that freshly fallen snow the ONLY way for that pristine smooth surface to return is for more snow to fall…enough that it covers all the foot (or paw) prints on the ground. So, “what’s your point” you ask? Well throughout The Song Of All, Myers has her characters walking through the snow and then attempt to hide their tracks. They do this by dragging branches behind them to clear the footprints. They do this over and over and over and all I could do each time was scream “NO!” First of all that wouldn’t fix the problem of the way a person’s foot sinks deep into the snow creating holes that the branches couldn’t completely fill, but even if it did what you’d see is patches of disturbed snow raked by branches in the middle of that beautiful smooth blanket of snow all around. This drove me nuts! Maybe to a fault.
The Song Of All is definitely a slow burn of a novel. Though it does have a few scenes with action overall it takes its time with the story. I’m not one of those readers who dislike slow burns out of hand. Slow pacing can make for an amazing book when done well giving me a sense of suspense and making me hang on every paragraph and sentence for what is coming next. I AM a reader who dislikes slow burns when I’m already struggling with the rest of the book. For me the pacing in The Song Of All just prolonged the struggle I was already having.
The protagonist in The Song Of All is Irjan, a former warrior turned farmer who gave up his former life of hunting down and killing the Japmea a race of immortals who have been in conflict with humans for generations. Irjan’s motivation is saving his son from death, and from the life he once led.
Other important characters include:
- Aillun, a Japmea who is on an unwanted quest to transform into something else in the lifecycle of the immortals. It is Aillun’s intersection with Irjan that really sets the direction of the rest of the novel once the opening arc of the story is complete.
- Kalek, Aillun’s lover and father of her child. Kalek factors more and more prominently as the story progresses and adds a level of tension with his ties and loyalty to Aillun and his people, and Irjan the strange newcomer to his life…someone who should be an enemy but someone he is compelled to help.
- Rikkar and Siggur, two antagonists (priest and acolyte) within the novel who do much to create the conflict Irjan finds himself drawn back into.
- Darja, Aillun’s daughter who becomes something of a miracle, and adopted daughter of Irjan in a sense. Her storyline is fleshed out more in the latter half of the book and is crucial moving forward in the narrative.
- Marnej, Irjan’s son and his motivation for much of the book.
Ultimately I didn’t become attached to or form a reading bond with any of the characters. They felt flat and I really didn’t care what happened to them. It’s rare that I don’t at least like one character but that’s what happened here. I didn’t even find myself hating one of the villains. They were all just kind of “meh.”
As I noted at the outset I liked the idea of a Scandinavian setting. It offered something a little different, and I love snow. Beyond that basic setting however I felt the world building was lacking. All we really see of the physical world is the village Irjan is living in at the opening, the village or town the immortals live in, a stronghold for the Brethren (order set up to fight the immortals) and the wilderness in-between. Apart from these locations you’d almost think nothing else existed in this world. I don’t remember any other towns, nations, or locations or people really being mentioned. It’s just these few locals and the humans and the Japmea…and there don’t seem to be many of either one.
Another aspect of the story I liked at first was it reminded me of the Rhapsody novels (The Symphony of Ages series) by Elizabeth Haydon which first appeared in 1999. Its been a long time since I read those books and I don’t remember much about them but I did enjoy the way in which Hayden used music as a in integral part of the world and magic system she created. Myers uses music and “the Song” as part of her magic system though it is a limited magic allowing the Japmea to hide within the song in a way that humans cannot perceive. Music is an integral part of the Japmea’s existence, such that their being is wrapped up in it. After a while though I felt like the Song and they way music was used started to wear thin. It’s hard to put my finger on just why it bothered me though so I feel like I’m being overly harsh here. I want to be able to say why it bothered me in order to be fair…but mostly I can just say it did…that it came to annoy me more than enhance the story.
There isn’t much else to say about the world building because well…there wasn’t much world building.
The key themes I found in the book swirl around identity; Identity as people groups and as individuals and how we get along within those groups and between groups different from us. These are at the heart of the conflict in The Song Of All and form the foundation of most conflicts between large groups today so they make for a good basis from which to create tension in a novel.
I read The Song Of All back in February when it came out. It’s taken me this long to review it for a couple of reasons; one because I got behind on my reviews because of work and family commitments; and two because I didn’t like it and I wasn’t sure how to approach it in my review. I didn’t want this to be a post of nothing but negative, but I just didn’t find much to like about this book. This was almost a DNF for me but I pushed through because I’d agreed to provide a review when the book was sent to me. I have seen a couple authors I resect say positive things about The Song Of All so I know it struck a chord with some. I had high hopes for this book and really wanted to like it, but it just fell flat for me because the plot wandered off, the pacing was too slow with no payoff, and I didn’t connect with any of the characters.