Necromancy and evil powermongering threaten a kingdom once known for the pure-hearted and enchanted quality of its music in this high-fantasy debut.
Centuries ago, the poets of Eivar wove spells into their songs, until the king forced them to renounce their magic forever. Now the current Court Poet, Nickon Gerrard, seems to have found his own source of magic, one that feeds on blood and death . On the eve of the poets’ contest for the highly coveted Silver Branch, three poets face serious setbacks. The famed Valanir Ocune sings a provocative work that labels his peers’ efforts hollow and is arrested for his treasonous temerity; the popular favorite, Darien Aldemoor, is cut from the contest when he’s betrayed by his viciously ambitious best friend; and Lin Amaristoth, a fugitive noblewoman seeking acceptance as a poet even though the Poets’ Academy bars women from admittance, is abandoned by her musical partner. Each, for their own reasons, decides to seek the Path to the Otherworld that could potentially restore magic to poets and cleanse the kingdom of corruption and evil sorcery. Myer calls to mind the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay as she beautifully expresses just how much art in general and music in particular can mean to its most devoted practitioners and how well-chosen words can influence the fate of a nation. While this is hardly grimdark, Myer doesn’t flinch from infusing her work with realistic portrayals of humanity’s less savory side, including haunting portraits of abuse, misogyny, dysfunctional relationships, and the dangerous ways in which jealousy can fester.
This is a strong series kickoff, with enough action and resolution of key plot points that it can stand by itself while leaving ample room for new storylines in future volumes.