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Song of the Kingdom

by Andy Stone
180 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Kristi

Good premise, but could have been better executed.

Plot

Music is forbidden in the barren remnants of the once beautiful Kingdom of Skye. After escaping the king's soldiers, three young musicians, Orin, Megan, and Tor, set out to free the ancient Song of the Kingdom that will restore their land.

Morality

The travelers lie a few times during their journey in order to conceal their mission, but otherwise the lines between right and wrong are clearly drawn and the characters behave accordingly.

Spiritual Content

At one point the travelers pretend to be 'pilgrims' on a journey to commune with the spirits of the mountains. Every element of the world: forests, mountains, etc., is portrayed as having its own music or spirit. Despite this New Age influence, there is a strong implication that the world was created by an individual god, as the song of creation is called "The Song of the One." One of the characters prays at one point, but we are not told to whom he prayed or what was said.

Violence

Some violence. The musicians are pursued by evil men, and their mentors are killed in horrific ways.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Alcohol and drunkenness in the inns, but not of the principle characters.

Sexual Content

A leering tenant is quickly put in his place by an innkeeper's wife, and there is a brief mention of romance and desire when the three travelers first meet and the two men compete for Megan's affections.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

This most unusual book has an excellent concept, and at times some lovely prose. Bits of it (perhaps the long, descriptive passage) are reminiscent of Tolkien. I never felt that I was quite inside the heads of the characters, even Orin, whose training in music takes up the first half of the book. It's a story more concerned with how the characters get to their destination than who the characters are. I found some parts of the plot to be too convenient: The travellers meet up out of sheer chance. Most of the perils they pass on the journey don't seem to have any real purpose for being where they are, other than to be an obstacle. The town of Planor, in particular, is problematic. As far as we know, no one has travelled so far into the mountains in living memory. Yet the citizens of Planor have a rule that they kill all strangers...well, what strangers would ever get there? It's not the sort of place one could find by accident.

Another problem is that the antagonist, Torald, never really interacts with the three protagonists until close to the end. We, the reader, catch glimpses of him, but the travellers don't even know he's in pursuit. He also manages to track them, alone, through extremely hazardous mountains, and we have no indication that he would be at all capable of doing so. He just appears at a convenient moment.

The climax could have been pushed a bit farther, but was acceptable. In the end, I think I liked the concept of the story better than I liked the telling of it. I'd love to see the same concept taken and written again by a different author, with slightly younger, more engaging characters. And yet, there is beauty here. It's the kind of tale that I might or might not advise a friend to read, but I would gladly retell in my own words round the campfire.

Fun Score: 4
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: adult

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