Publisher: Three Moons Press
Summary: Only the lost art of evoking magic through music can prevent Cathay from descending into chaos.
Blessed with an unrivaled voice, Kaiya dreams of a time when a song liberated enslaved humans from their orc masters. Maybe then, the imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool.
When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan uncover a brewing rebellion, the court hopes to appease the ringleader by offering Kaiya as a bride.
Obediently wedding the depraved rebel leader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
What excited me the most when I first picked this book up was the prospect of a music-based magic system. I’m a huge sucker for music-based magic and there aren’t nearly enough books with them. In that regard, I think this book did very well. Since Kaiya’s music, Dragon Songs, starts as a forgotten art, we get to rediscover them with Kaiya. The magic in Songs of Insurrection, is not purely music-based, but art-based. There are a number of different techniques that can infuse magic (Kaiya’s sister-in-law is a skilled calligraphist), and while those are not covered as much as I would have liked in this book, I hope to see it explored in the future works.
The other strength of this book is the amazingly in-depth world building. Kang compares his world to Middle Earth and I think the comparison is very accurate. We learn of half a dozen different countries, their cultural differences, and the political tensions between them. One of Kang’s strengths is definitely in his knowledge of military and weaponry. A lot description goes towards detailing which groups of people use what kinds of weapons, made from which materials. Often times, conclusions are come to based on the weaponry found at the scene of a crime. On the other hand, because of the number of people and places named, it was difficult for me to remember exactly who was who and which groups were fighting each other. There were also times where I thought the descriptions became too convoluted and I just wanted the story to return back to the plot.
The book also uses a fair amount of what I believe is untranslated Chinese. While I grew up learning some Chinese, my comprehension is pretty poor and I found that I could pick up most words from context clues. I can’t speak for someone with no familiarity with the language, so reader be warned.
My biggest detraction from this book was the main character, Kaiya, the sixteen-year-old imperial princess. She starts spoiled and naive, which was understandable because that’s how she’s been raised. I actually rather liked her at first, even if I found the level of her infatuation with Prince Hardeep a little excessive. She seemed determined and willing to learn. I found myself getting more and more annoyed with her as the story went on when she refused to stop being less naive. I feel like a lot of the bad events that happened in the book were a direct result of her not thinking through a decision.
On the other hand, Tian and Jie, the other two POVs, definitely grew on me as the book went on. I loved how bad ass Jie was and how she was willing to use literally every weapon in her arsenal, even if that meant herself. I do admit, the idea of a 12-year-old looking 28-year-old elf is rather disturbing to picture, but if it works for Jie, good for her. Both she and Tian, being members of a secret clan of spies, were incredibly competent, which made them both fun to read.
As a side note, there were times I was annoyed with the book because it felt like very significant events were happening that only spanned 1-2% of the book. I only found out later that the eBook I was reading from is an eBook of all four books currently in the series. So some annoyance in the book might simply be from that.
Overall, I rate this book a 4/5. I loved the world building and the political drama and intrigue, but I found the main character increasingly grating.
/r/Fantasy Bingo 2018 Squares
- Novel that was reviewed on /r/Fantasy
- Novel featuring a Non-Western Setting
- Novel Featuring a Library
- Novel Featuring a Protagonist Who is a Write/Artist/Musician
- Novel With Fewer Than 2500 Goodreads Ratings