Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper
Review by Joshua S Hill
Sadly, there isn’t always a constant stream of books by big name authors to keep you reading day in day out. I used to consider this the downside of reviewing books, but I recently found that I was wrong. My pile of “books that I’ll get to one day” became must reads.
‘Songs of the Earth’ by Elspeth Cooper was the second book that I picked off that pile, and the second book that I found myself unexpectedly enjoying.
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, whilst his burgeoning power threatens to tear him apart from within.
There is no hope . . .
. . . none but a secretive 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.
Set in a church-state world where magic is abhorred and considered a sin punishable by burning, take a guess who our main character is going to be. Sure, it may not be the most original tale, but a tale told well can sweep away any stereotypicalities.
What I was impressed with was the way in which Cooper wove in perspectives that weren’t our main hero’s. The Church is not the pure centre of light it wants to be, and the head of the Church well knows it. The hidden princess is selfless and sacrificial, while still being emotional and lost.
And what starts out as a book with magic as its fantastical element slowly starts introducing elements that add more to this world; hidden worlds, new dimensions, demons, and a disregard for the humans we’re surrounded with.
I was a little disappointed with the way in which Cooper all but pulled from the Bible and Greek/Roman history to give her world credibility. I found no evidence that this book was situated on a parallel Earth, but there were some things – words, phrases, historical references – that drew me out of the story. It’s a minor complaint in the whole, but a complaint nonetheless. I wanted to be left in the world and to have everything fit and belong there, instead of reminding me of my world.
Also, the last fifty pages or so seemed rushed – as if the author had a word count or deadline that she had to meet – which left me feeling a little let down with the way the story was filled out, or, as the case may be, wasn’t.
Nevertheless, Cooper has written a book that kept me glued to the page hour after hour. I am very much looking forward to the second book in this series, and I would recommend this to most readers.
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