The Singing by Alison Croggon
Book 4 in the Pellinor Cycle
Published by (Australia) Penguin Group, June 2008; (UK) Walker Books Ltd (Sept. 2008); (US) Candlewick Press, March 2009.
Review by ĎBridieí (Bridie Roman)
Hobbit Note: For those not aware, SFFWorld has a very active group of Alison Croggon fans in her SFFWorld Forum area. Because of that, we asked one of our staff members there, 15 year-old Bridie, to review Alisonís latest, the fourth in her acclaimed Pellinor series.
Over to BridieÖ.
The Singing starts where The Riddle left off, with Maerad and Cadvan travelling to the barding school of Innail, followed by alternate chapters for Hem and Salimanís journey north, as they flee from The Black Army, who are marching on Annar and the Seven Kingdoms. Brother and sister Maerad and Hem are destined to unite against The Nameless One, Sharma, and defeat the forces of darkness. The journey is perilous, Annar is in a state of civil war, the centre of the light is corrupt, and worse, the weather is about to become veryÖ British. (Strangely enough for an Australian writer!)
Sounds like a staple fantasy novel, doesnít it?
Well, yes, it has got that traditional structure, but thatís where the similarity ends. There are so many interesting concepts in the series, and in this book. The whole concept of barding is something Iíve never come across (I donít mean regular bards). The musical influence on the novel is to me very original and I think lovers of The Name of The Wind would definitely appreciate it. All said and done itís not the plot that makes this book though; itís the characters and the prose.
You can tell Alisonís Ďday jobí is ďPoetĒ. As you might therefore expect, the writing flows effortlessly and with a certain grace that I feel few authors are able to maintain. Tolkien had it, Rothfuss owns it and Croggon definitely does. Itís the sort of writing that elicits deep emotions and brings out the most beautiful parts of your imagination. The wonderful poems included in the start of each section of the book arenít really just Alison showing off, but add another level to the story; they are superb.
Through the main plot there is a good balance between setting the scene and the scene playing out. The descriptions, whilst they are many, arenít flowery or overdone and there arenít so many that you get bored. In particular, Alisonís description of foods has maintained its standard from previous novels and I was once again made to feel hungry at every dinner scene.
Alison has also played to her previous strengths here in that the characters are as loveable as they were in the past and the additions to the cast in this book prove to be just as good as the originals. Irc is just as funny as he was in The Crow, if not more hilarious, adding a good amount of humour even in the darkest situations.
My favourite characters were Saliman, Hem and Irc. I thought as a trio they were believable in their interactions and just hilarious, to be honest, though they did make me weep with both humour and sadness. Overall the characters are well portrayed and so well written that itís hard not to get attached to them. The characters are very much what drive you on the story, they are the reason you keep reading.
All that praise said, I did have a slight problem with the dialogue of the characters, probably because Iíve read too many Ďdark and grittyí novels now and when thereís moments of dire peril I fully expect a good old swear word and when there are nasty humans I expect them to bandy about crude remarks. But alas this is mostly YA and so I found some of the speech to be, to my mind, unrealistic. That isnít to say it all is like that, just certain parts. Whilst the books are mainly aimed for a Young Adult (YA) audience, I feel that there are moments in this book (and definitely throughout the series as it progresses) that do have a more adult feel to them.
In summary, the novel is funny but serious, with moments of blissful joy and moments of wholehearted sadness. This is a brilliant conclusion to a brilliant quartet. These books will always have a special place in my heart and I hope Alison will write more, though not necessarily in the world of Pellinor, so that I can continue to be inspired by her.
Bridie, July 2008
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