Let’s get this out of the way up front: First and foremost, Song is grim. The grimmest of Grimdark. In places it’s almost a horror novel – not for those with weak stomachs. If that sounds like something that’s up your alley, settle in.
This is a multi-PoV novel, starting with a major prison break out. The Black Cowl has busted out the prisoners to build himself an army. And we’re not just talking any prisoners in your average prison – think more along the lines of Arkham Asylum. These guys are the worst of the worst, so violent and unhinged that the prison’s security measures include a magical reconfiguration of the entire place each day to prevent them from making escape plans. Rayph was the main guardian of the prison and he wasn’t there when it happened, so now he needs to piece things together. Oops.
Our other main PoV is Konnon, a reluctant and highly skilled bounty hunter who is driven for the love of his daughter Bree, who has a rare and terrible disease that is causing her to slowly become paralysed – at this point in time the paralysis has reached her thighs and he’s growing desperate. He spends all his time, money and effort to procure medicine to slow Bree’s disease but things aren’t looking good, and desperate men will do desperate things.
Teller is a skilled storyteller, with some outstanding worldbuilding. This is a fully realized world that we’re dropped into, with interesting mythology, demons and magic that doesn’t need to explain itself to us – indeed, the mystery makes it more alluring. At times I’m reminded of The Witcher’s grimy world full of decay and eerie swamps where danger lurks behind each dying tree. Nothing felt far fetched or badly thought out, and there were a number of really fantastic little touches that sent my eyebrows sailing to my hairline. The friendships rang true, with some solid dialogue. There are some grey characters and some truly irredeemably evil ones, with Julius Kriss being the loathsome standout. One particularly difficult-to-read scene involves Kriss taking something bordering on sexual pleasure from the pain and torment of a small child. Again, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
Which leads me to my critique, and please keep in mind that I enjoyed the book very much and fully intend to read any sequels. It’s not something that bothered me exactly, but it’s something that I noticed. I feel I would be remiss in not mentioning it because I know some readers for whom it would be a dealbreaker, and for those readers I simply cannot recommend this book. This is a violent and bloody world, and as is often the case one of the most dangerous things you can be is a woman. This is especially true here. In this world the violence is something that most of the male characters (and a couple of the women) actively participate in. For the women, it is very frequently something that just happens to them. Women are routinely tortured, murdered, humiliated and disfigured throughout the book. If this is something you will have a hard time with, consider yourself warned.
With that said, Song is a damn strong opener to this series and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for The Manhunters.
r/Fantasy Bingo 2017 Squares
- Published in 2017
- Writer of the Day