P.S. Also, be a dear and write Jonathan a nice little comment telling him how he did :)**
A Clash of Brothers. A Terrible Sacrifice.
In the Face of Powerful Darkness, Who Will Prevail?
The island of Seare is at war. The Red Druid is gathering strength and power to stand against Conor, Eoghan, and the brotherhood. But there is strife within the brotherhood as well. Eoghan still refuses to claim his rightful rule, and the resulting conflict creates an uncomfortable distance between him and Conor. When Conor leaves to find the key to defeating the Red Druid, Eoghan and Aine worry he will succumb to the danger, and they attempt their own mission to defeat the Red Druid through Aine's magical gifts.
But Nothing--And No One--Is As It Seems.
I'm always fascinated to see a book which belongs to a series that boasts "a novel" proudly on the front cover (I say "proudly" though it is usually typed in teeny print below an eloquent title such as The Sword and The Song). My thinking goes along the lines of: "Oh boy! A series comprised of novels that can stand by themselves but united are even better!" And the fact that the declaration is so small makes me feel like I am in on a privileged secret that possibly no one else knows about. What could be better?
Needless to say, I have been let down more than once, and I realize it is largely based on slightly unreasonable expectations.
Such was my approach to The Sword and The Song. I was expectant and slightly wary. Naturally, I was not prepared to be wary about everything, though, so the first line smacked me in the face (metaphorically, like a limp fish). The author, C. E. Laureano, started the book off with no reserves. The first sentence states that our hero has just dodged a swinging sword by a mere couple of inches (a mere couple of inches more than I am able to dodge limp fish). Engaging right? Well, it might be.
To me it would have been fine if not for the fact that The Sword and The Song makes the third (Third!) book I can give you the title of that starts off in that way, and the second to use almost the exact same sentence to do so. The other two (which were both from separate series) didn't go over with me quickly either. I'm fine when an author goes all in in the first chapter. I think it's great. But certain ways that authors try to go all in make me feel like maybe I've just experienced the best that they had to offer. Ernest Hemingway and Baby Shoes aside, if an author can contain the best they have to offer in a single sentence I find it, well, small.
Not a good start, I'll admit. But other than a few of my own misgivings (mostly concerning fish and my slow reflexes) the story was well rounded and fascinating to a point. It does take a minute to get up to speed. Politics rein for a few short chapters, and confusion abounded as I learned a million new words. It took a while but soon I was reading "Hm-hmm" and "Ahrrd-dard-dard-hmmm" and "Fi-fu-hmm" like a pro (and proudly doing so, though I'm glad I wasn't reading out loud).
The author throws magic in a lot (At times I felt like I was reading a video game). Largely she used the idea that magic was the infestation of power from the character she used to represent GOD. But unlike C. S. Lewis' Narnia she didn't seem to capture the theological aspects of that. She only got the wow factor.
In an interview with the author she says:
"...Of course, the addition of magic changes things, so I got to imagine how the existence of supernatural gifts and blood magic might have affected their culture. I also re-envisioned the faerie mythology from a neutral, mischievous role into something more malevolent."
Characters and Such:
As the book progressed I learned to respect the main character, Conor (In my opinion he is the best part of the book). He is discerning and relatively knowledgable. And, according to an interview with the author, Conor is also her favorite character:
"...He’s definitely the one I find most personally relatable. He knows he was created for something greater, but he doesn’t always make the right decisions—he lets his emotions sway his thinking and he lets down the people who depend on him—but he always comes through in the end. In that way, he’s something of a Biblical hero than a superhero...David was described as a man after God’s own heart, but he still did some seriously stupid things. "
Conor struggles in meaningful ways that feel far less half hearted and half developed than they could have easily been, and I can only imagine how much more meaningful they would be if I had read the other two books in the series first.
Which may bring us to the problem. I have not read the first two books in the series.
Which may have brought us to the other problem. I find myself able to pass on the other two.
While I don't regret reading the book exactly, it was not my style. The character development, while not as outstanding as J.R.R. Tolkien or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was, in fact, developed well. Certain characters really stood out to me in their own way. The problem is their own way just wasn't to my taste.
What I'm saying here is this: Too many things got in the way of me enjoying The Sword and The Song. It has themes of sacrifice in it, but it also has random threads of selfishness. It has people strongly devoted to their moral code and to their religion, but it also has awkward acts against that same religion and code (I am referring to things that I found too common to just be explained away as "contrast"). Between that and a couple of sexual references, though they were relatively tastefully handled, I find it hard to recommend. Going by the rating system on the side bar, I would give it a 2 (and three quarters) out of 5.
Here are some additional insights into the author from the above mentioned interview:
What do you hope readers will take away from your books?
"I didn’t want to write a “safe” story where you know that everything is going to be okay and everyone will come out unharmed—because real life isn’t like that. It can be scary and messy and unpredictable. But through it all, if you look hard enough, is the ever-present thread of God’s grace and provision. My greatest wish is that readers come away with the understanding that they have a purpose, that they matter, that God cares for them as individuals and not just as a face in the crowd. I’ll consider my job done if readers walk away with hope."
P.S. I was given The Sword and The Song by: C. E. Laureano_ by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.