I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Songbird by Colleen Helme
Published by Mundania Press on June 26th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Source: ARC from publisher
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Teya is desperate. Caught by the King and held for her magical singing abilities, she is ready to do anything to escape, or die trying. When her own plans fail, an ambassador from another country unexpectedly offers her a chance at freedom. All she must do is take him to her homeland. It sounds too good to be true, and she realizes she might only be exchanging one prison for another.
When she challenges the ambassador, Bran, to remove her kundar, the hated collar that keeps her magic in check, he hesitates. She is a beautiful, exotic creature, but from the rumors he’s heard, the collar is the only thing that will keep her from turning on him, and he needs her help to find the elixir sym, that threatens to destroy his country.
A precarious alliance forms between them, and their journey begins. But it quickly becomes filled with treachery and deceit. Teya must learn who she really is, for if she fails, her people and the magic they weld are lost forever. Now, as she nears the completion of her journey, she realizes the path she is destined to take will also tear her from the man she loves. Can she give up everything she is for him?
This book was really long (it seemed) but really good! There was always something going on and the plot didn’t let up for a minute. Honestly it was hard to find a stopping point because it was always right in the middle of something.
I had very few issues with it, and those were mainly character-based. The writing was very good and pacing was fine, although it probably could have been broken up into two books. The descriptions were great—such imagery, and it felt very real. The world-building was wonderful—even though there wasn’t too much of it (I only noticed this later), it still felt like there was a solid foundation there that didn’t leave any holes or gaps in my mind about each place. Braemar was like the modern world, and Old Country was, well, old-fashioned. Much like a fairytale, really. But if you ask me, the book was very much plot-driven, more than anything.
Teya was pretty much as you’d expect her to be. Sometimes she was a strong female protagonist, but most of the time she was the girl who had been kept as a slave during the most important years of her life (rather, the years that she should have been developing into the young woman she was meant to become). She was certainly a bit helpless at times, but she kept her sanity and that’s probably what saved her. I wasn’t too attached to her but I did want her to win, of course.
Bran was also quite predictable. They themselves weren’t particularly interesting, but together they were something. That’s what was cool, and at times incredible—seeing what they could do together.
The politics were fascinating, and greatly unpredictable. There was so much going on and nothing was ever as it seemed. No one could really be trusted, either to do good or to do bad. It turned into a waiting game of seeing who would come to you and divulge their plans and figuring out whether to thwart them or join them. Quite interesting, really, when they weren’t torturing you. I was surprised several times. Kept me on my toes, it did. I loved that aspect. I always love fantasy politics.
But that’s where the issue came in. Jesse is the issue. Can’t say much on who he is—spoilers, you know—but his allegiance changes and it wasn’t until the very very end that I figured out whose side he was on. Honestly I never was sure and I didn’t like it, whether they trusted him or not. And it seemed that they (Teya) were a little too quick to trust him after what he threatened to do (and was in the process of doing) when they met him the first time. I mean, sure, it wasn’t like they had a lot of choice at the moment and if there was any shred of hope they would hold on to it, but all the same, it may have been a lapse in judgment.
Teya’s own inner turmoil could have been explored a bit more as well. She had power and was afraid of turning into a monster by letting her anger fuel her magic. This actually reminds me a lot of one of my favorite books, Fire by Kristin Cashore. Same sort of deal. And she worries about this a fair bit, but it never really becomes a serious issue, or at least it didn’t seem like it to me. This is unfortunate, because I think this is a wonderful issue to explore, especially within this genre where there is so much more freedom and possibility (magic). Like I said before, if this was broken up into at least two books, it could definitely have been explored a bit more. And there definitely is enough plot to fill two books without having to write a lot in addition. Another thing to note—at times like these, when she worries about her sanity, and locking her emotions away, she seems almost childlike in her thinking. And this is to be expected, considering that she never had the chance to mature properly, but these are quite serious issues that should have been treated more carefully. I can almost hear you thinking, how was she childlike? Defend yourself. Hmmm. It was more so with the whole ‘turning into a monster’ bit rather than the locking her emotions away bit. Looking back on it, it was probably because of how fleeting her thoughts were in the grand scope of things. Probably only a few sentences to a small paragraph here and there after she uses her magic to harm or feels a flare of anger. I don’t feel like she dwells on it to the depth that adults would, although I do believe that her power (for both healing and harm) definitely merits that depth of thought. The ending is evidence enough of it. If she had known about that earlier on, she may have thought more, or perhaps if she had lost control and massacred a bunch of people. Maybe the reason she didn’t dwell on it was because she did indeed have enough power to control it. If so, that’s admirable. If so, then that would demonstrate an adult-like control over the situation, which only makes her childlike way of thinking seem stranger. But seeing as it was only one book, and not quite as character-driven as others, I can’t really delve as deeply into Teya’s mind as I would like. What could I explore instead? The politics and motives of various people (in charge or otherwise) throughout the novel, probably. That’s something that seems to change a lot, or at least be a surprise. I could try to figure out exactly the extent of Korban’s magic, how it worked to get him to where he was as well as how it helped him after he moved into power. I could figure out how Chancellor Turner managed to play his part from the very beginning of the novel so well and without arousing anyone’s suspicion (even Korban’s. Korban seems to have a few carefully placed flaws that I could also try to figure out). I could try to piece together exactly what happened to the Kalorians during the ten years of Teya’s imprisonment. I could guess at what her life in the castle was like (what the king used her for and what she did for fun). Actually, those ten years were something that could definitely have been drawn out and explained (if this was made into two books, all that could definitely be added if an interesting filler was needed). We never really learned much about the king’s motives, exactly how bad he was and why (and if you ask me, taking blood seems like a much worse punishment than putting the prisoner in a box, but then again, I’ve never had to deal with claustrophobia so I wouldn’t know). We never learned what changed some of the castle-dwellers’ minds about the king and why they switched loyalties, or waited so long to act. We also never learn too much about what goes on in Braemar, or even Kalore for that matter. We never learn too much about any one place, only about the different people that want power over each one (or all, or any combination). But it all plays together very nicely.
All in all, I think we can come to the conclusion that it was a long very action-packed plot-driven book with lots to explore and think about. It was a marvelous fantasy for all those reasons and more.
reaction upon finishing
Yay!! Also, knew it.
this book in one word