Boarding school drama and paranormal romance collide in this promising debut.
Sing da Navelli, daughter of a world-famous conductor and the late, legendary soprano Barbara da Navelli, arrives at the prestigious Dunhammond Conservatory determined to find recognition for her own talent. Surrounding the conservatory is a dark forest, shrouded in mystery and rumored home of the Felix, a fantastical beast whose tears become wishes. Sing is drawn to the forest and to the off-putting yet strangely attractive Nathan Daysmoor, an apprentice at the conservatory. The main narrative revolves around campus life and rehearsals for the Autumn Festival. The opera Angelique is the centerpiece of the festival, and Sing’s dreams are crushed when she is cast as the understudy to the title role. Rule weaves parallel narratives through the novel, following Nathan’s back story and the motivations of the Felix as she collides with humanity. Sing herself begins as a largely unlikable and shallow character but will grow on readers who have the patience to slog through the slow first half of the novel. Uneven pacing, underdeveloped secondary characters and a bloated main narrative put too much focus on teenage cattiness, while the Felix mythology and Sing’s relationship with Nathan are more interesting and original. Although not perfect, the second half is a compelling read.
The end is worth the sometimes-perilous journey. (Fantasy. 13-17)