Summary: Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.
I received this book from the author through Esmerelda Weatherwax’s TBRindr in exchange for an honest review.
Going into Song, the several reviews I’d read promised a pulpy, grimdark novel that somehow also managed to be campy. Unfortunately, while I could see where the author was trying to go, that combination simply did not mesh for me.
To start with, there were several things I liked about this book. Once the ball got rolling, the action and the writing was pretty fast-paced. Events happened one after another, giving the MC Rayph no time for rest and keeping the readers constantly on their toes. The looming threat of something worse to come was always there, and every time Rayph seemed to achieve a goal, there was surely something bad to follow. The many combat scenes were well written, and I never felt like I lost track of which character was fighting what when and where. The writing style is certainly gritty and gruesome, but it never seemed overly gratuitous. The direction of the book was very different too. Instead of the MC being a farm boy, new-to-the-job character, Rayph is a seasoned wizard over 10,000 years old. Rayph knows his shit and knows the people he needs to work with to take down the Big Bad Evil Guy. His competency was a refreshing take.
With that being said, I still found several flaws that really prevented me from properly enjoying this novel. The first was the pacing. While the pacing of the second half was well-done, I found the pacing of the first half almost unbearable. The book opens with Rayph being informed by an old nemesis (?) that his unbreakable prison of Really Bad People has been broken. Rayph rushes to this prison to see what happened, finds everyone gone and his friend who was guarding the prison dead. This is maybe the first 10%. The next ~40% is spent assembling a squad of six (?) people to help hunt down all these prisoners. My issues were that a) this too way too long. Gathering these people probably could have taken half the amount of time and I would have gotten the same amount of information. And b) most these people weren’t even used in the second half of the book! There’s a (?) after six because I honestly don’t remember how many people he brought together because most are never mentioned again!.
There was also a weird issue with the way individual scenes were structured that really threw me off. Especially in the first half, I felt like Rayph behaved like someone playing Skyrim with fast-travel on. He’d show up here to convince someone to join his team, then there to deliver a message, then somewhere else to summon a creature and ask for a favor, and so on. There were never scenes of him traveling from place to place, which I think detracted from the story of several reasons. Firstly, due to the lack of spacing in between important scenes, it felt like there was never any setup happening. I was never really told why somewhere or someone was important or who/what they even were, which left me grasping for details and eventually I gave up caring. Secondly, it made the story really choppy and disjointing to read. Finally, it left me with a really poor grasp on the world. I could only assume these places weren’t all just next to each other and that Rayph had to actually spend a bit of time going from place to place. However, I could never really build a sense of how far things were from each other, or even spatially where things were in relation to one another. Cities and countries could be mentioned and I wouldn’t be able to give even a basic estimation of where they would be on a map.
Finally, I didn’t find the villains particularly memorable or engaging. There are two big villains in Song: Black Cowl and Julian Kriss. Black Cowl is the one who is believed to have conducted the jailbreak, but during the one big confrontation with him, I didn’t really get the impression that he was extremely powerful as the book had hyped him to be. He makes one other small appearance later one, doing something very clever and making Rayph’s life living hell, but otherwise doesn’t have a big immediate presence. Julian Kriss, a former inmate, acts as the primary antagonist, and while he was certainly formidable, he was also very one-dimensional. He was one of those, do whatever is most evil at the time, villains, but didn’t seem to have much character beyond that one trait. I assume he’s where the camp comes in, but I just found him more bizarre than campy. There’s one scene in particular that comes to mind, where he’s telling a young girl he’d previously kidnapped that she either needs to choke a puppy or he’ll whip a guy to death in front of her. The thing is, when he kidnapped her earlier, she definitely wasn’t holding a puppy. Which means this creepy sadistic villain had to go out of his way to find a puppy for her to choke to death. I’ll just leave it at that.
Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. While the plot was interesting once the action got going, getting there took way too long for me. I was never really invested in the characters, and I found the villains lackluster.
/r/Fantasy Bingo 2018 Squares
- Novel that was reviewed on /r/Fantasy
- Self-Published Novel
- Novel Featuring a Mountain Setting
- Novel with <2500 Goodreads ratings
- Novel with a One Word Title
- Novel Featuring a God as a Character