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#104 Singer by Jean Thesman

After escaping from the clutches of her mother, a wicked sorceress named Rhiamon, Gwenore finds herself settling into a new life at Blessingwood, a community where intelligent women teach her how to play music, tend plants, and perform surgery. But no matter how much she reinvents or remanes herself, Gwenore is still trapped by her past. For as the years pass, Rhiamon continues the search for her. It will take all of Gwenore's strength, and the magic she barely understands inside of her, to truly escape.

I first discovered Singer when it crossed my desk at the library. The cover art caught my eye, as did the historical fantasy story, which draws from the Irish folktale The Children of Lir at takes place in England/Ireland in the years following the crusades. As I began to read the book, I was immediately sucked into the story of Gwenore/Singer's flight from her mother. I found myself fascinating by the learned and free minded women of Blessingwood. Probably the most interesting sections of the novel are those which focus on their medical exploits. I found myself squirming a little at the lack of anesthetics involved in some of these surgeries, but at the same time I was impressed at how advanced some of the procedures were, given how long ago this book took place. I also enjoyed many of the side characters, especially King Harry, a snarky talking cat that reminded me of Mogget from Garth Nix's Sabriel.

Unfortunately, about halfway through the book, everything changes. The Blessingwood storyline is discarded, and a new plotline is picked up involving The Children of Lir folktale. This final half of the book is where much of the it's issues lie. The Children of Lir storyline is interesting, but feels very under developed, as if giant chunks are missing. For example. we're supposed to believe that Gwenore/Singer has become very attached to these children, but we never see it happen ourselves. Perhaps the largest problem of the book can be found in it's ending, which has many exciting moments but is ultimately an unsatisfying resolution to Gwenore/Singer's character arc.

Singer is a frustratingly uneven books. At times it feels like you're just reading pieces of two good books that were sewed together sloppily, and never given enough chance to fulfill their potential. As a result, despite the fact that I really enjoyed pieces of this novel, I honestly cannot recommend it to others as it was just too uneven.

Rating: three stars
Length: 280 pages
Source: Readfield Community Library
Other books I've read by this author: This is my first

Next I will be reviewing Indigo Springs by A.M. Dellamonica

xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads

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