21 February 2013

The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable

Calwyn has never been beyond the high ice-wall that guards the sisters of Antaris from the world of Tremaris. She knows only the rounds of her life as a novice ice priestess, tending her bees, singing her ice chantments, and dreaming.

But then Calwyn befriends Darrow, a mysterious Outlander who appears inside the Wall and warns of an approaching danger. To help Darrow, to see the world, and perhaps to save it, Calwyn will leave the safety of the Wall for a journey with a man she barely knows--and an adventure as beautiful and dangerous as the music of chantment itself.

I should have given The Singer of All Songs a chance when I first got it from Half Price Books several years ago; I could've avoided the year of literary deprivation.  I had read the first page and tossed it aside because the fancy writing style put me off.  But I picked it up out of boredom several nights ago and was instantly captured.  I read thirty pages that first night before forcing myself to close it and go to bed.  Writing that I had once labeled "fancy" with a negative slant had transformed into smooth and easy prose, enriched with details that portrayed a great story of a heroic cast of characters on a dangerous quest.  Once I started, I could hardly get myself to stop, and by the time it ended, I was instantly ready for more.

Kate Constable's epic writing style brought forth everything that makes a story great: world, characters, plot, atmosphere.  Once I gave the writing a chance, it was incredibly easy to let myself be transported into the story where singing is the vessel for magic, where a young girl is just trying to find her purpose in a world fracturing from the inside.  The characters were amazing and diverse, but worked well as a cohesive unit; the plot was exciting, with constant action; and the world, the atmosphere, was intoxicating.

It was hard to pinpoint my favorite part of Singer of All Songs, because there were so many awesome aspects of the book.  Overall, though, I think Calwyn was my favorite character.  I really liked her narrative, even though she could stand for a bit more of a confrontational edge -- while her tenderness was endearing, sometimes getting up in someone's face is the thing that works in that moment.  But I forgave her for it.  I really liked reading about her transformation from timid beekeeper in the ice world of Antaris to confident traveling chanter on the scent of an evil sorcerer.  I kept behind her and her friends 100%.

And the way Kate Constable presented the plot made it possible for me to sink into the story 100%.  While it was a short book, it seemed to encompass much more time than it should.  While I finished it in a few days, the characters had been going for so much longer than that, and the passage of time was presented well.  It was easy for me to keep up with the story -- I understood the shift of the stakes and the characters' understanding of them.  I liked how their journey was far from swift and easy: they were constantly being detoured by raging storms, getting kidnapped by pirates, exploring unmarked territory.  There was always something happening, always something to capture my interest and attention.

The plot also gave a great understanding of the world.  The setup was very Tamora Pierce-esque, but fueled by a core that was entirely Kate Constable's.  Singing being the vessel for magic?  It gave the world a very unique atmosphere, one that was completely effortless to slip into.  There was this constant curiosity about how something worked, about how some small thing about the world would affect the characters.  I loved that about this book, its richness of detail.  

The Singer of All Songs surprised me with its exciting plot and cheerworthy characters.  And now that I've been captured by the world, I cannot wait to continue with the series.

"...There is a tale, as old as the Ancient Ones themselves, that one would arise who has that gift: to sing all the chantments, the high notes and the low, the swift rhythms and the slow.  And this person would be more powerful than even the Ancient Ones were, as powerful as the gods themselves."

"It seems to me them that sees an evil thing unfold and don't do nothin' to prevent it, are just as bad as them that does the evil."
 Book Info

  • pages - paperback, 320
  • published - March 2005
  • publisher - Scholastic Paperbacks
  • genre - fantasy
  • received via - Half Price Books
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - The Chanters of Tremaris
    • The Singer of All Songs
    • The Waterless Sea
    • The Tenth Power