Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Review: Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

by Elspeth Cooper
Release Date: February 28th 2012
2012 Tor Books
Hardcover Edition; 467 Pages
ISBN: 978-0765331656
ASIN: B0079XQ55K
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

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 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.
My Thoughts
Songs of the Earth is the first book in The Wild Hunt series, and while I thought it was a solid first entry, there were still some issues as it tended to lean quite a bit towards more conventional fantasy tropes rather than to the promise of its jacket cover.   Don't get me wrong, I LOVE conventional fantasy. I still love reading series about a hero who is prophesied to save the world, who develops powers that he didn't know he had, who would be joined on a quest to save the world, etc...I am all for conventional, if it done well.  When it lacks substance though, it can so easily fail. 

Let me start with the strongest part of this book, the writing style.  The author definitely knows how to tell a story, and I found myself particularly enthralled with the fighting scenes, or pretty much any action scene.  She has this way of describing things to make you feel as if you are right there with the characters and can see and feel things the way they do.  The dialogue could be a bit stilted at times though, and even I felt awkward for some of the characters.
Which brings me to the characters.  I liked the characters, but feel as if I need to read the next two books immediately or I will forget who they are as they were kind of bland.  There was a lot of potential for these characters to develop into unique, and distinct, personalities, but they were truly one-dimensional.  The one character who grew on me towards the end was Tanith as I felt like there was a huge backstory just sitting there, waiting to be discovered.  Whether the author can do that remains to be seen.  Every once in a while, one of the characters would do something that was so out of character that it didn't make sense as they weren't developed enough for the author to go down that route.  A more subtle development was needed.  Perhaps we will see that in the second book.
One of the things I did think was interesting, but more in the first half of the book, was the magic system.  It seemed kind of unique as the characters had to draw on music to be able to access the magic.  However, that kind of changed halfway through and I felt like the author just wasn't sure what she wanted to do with the magic system, and what kinds of limits she wanted to put on it, and for whom.  So, instead of developing it, the characters all of a sudden could do these things, like change shape; and while it was interesting, it wasn't logical.  And yet, the scenes where Gair was flying are some of the best in the book, in my opinion.  I don't mind spontaneity in certain things, but it should fit into the plot. 

Songs of the Earth is a well-written book that sort of suffers from lack of substance.  The setting itself is lacklustre in the sense that I would fail any test that requires me to understand the difference between the various people and kingdoms as the author put so little emphasis on them, and yet, world building is hugely important in a fantasy novel.  The characters were a bit one-dimensional so it would be fascinating to see them develop their own unique personality traits, and not just as something to move the plot.  However, the overall story was interesting, and there was certainly a lot going on in this book, enough secondary plot lines, that I am curious about the second book, Trinity Rising.



  1. It's not my genre, so I'd be inclined to pass on it.

    1. I love fantasy, but have not read as much as I would have liked these past few years. The publisher gave me book four so I thought I would take a look. And for whatever reason, I've received a lot of fantasy / sci-fi requests this year where I would normally get historical mystery / thriller stuff. It's been interesting.