Strange Sweet Song

First Lines: If you have been there that night, the night it happened, you might not have even noticed.  The strings and woodwinds shone fat and glossy in the concert hall’s perfect humidity, and the brass instruments sparkled in the gentle light of the chandeliers.

One of my favorite things to do is try new, untested authors to see if I like their stuff.  (I’m the same way with singers too.)  As a music lover, I knew I had to read this book.  I just wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not.

Dunhammond Conservatory is a prestigious music school with a strange story.  There’s a dark, forbidden forest just outside the conservatory that’s said to be home to a beast called The Felix.  Sing da Navelli has never put much stock in those stories.  She’s there to sing and become a star.  But no matter what she tries, something is missing in her voice.  What’s worse is that she’s cast as an understudy in her favorite opera, Angelique, written right at Dunhammond.  Legend says the composer was inspired by the legends surrounding the place.  But what if those legends aren’t quite legends?  Sing must work with the mysterious–and occasionally rude–Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor, who is both her biggest fan and harshest critic.  But Nathan has secrets, secrets that tie themselves to the legends of Dunhammond…

I went into this book thinking about Sing’s unfortunate name.  I wasn’t sold on it, and I thought it was going to be hard to get into a story where I didn’t like the character’s name.

But I knew as soon as I finished the book, and I mean literally as soon as I finished, I wanted to reread it.  It was that surprising and addicting.  It was fabulous.  It’s really got this contemporary gothic fairy-tale vibe going on, if there’s even such a thing as what I just said.

I loved that this had a fairy-tale edge to it, with a fairy tale I didn’t know.  And the writing really played into that.  It constantly flipped perspectives from Sing to someone (or something) related to the legends of the school.  Yes, at times it was really confusing, in good and bad ways.  It threw me off my game and left me open to surprises.  But it also confused me in that they were talking about the same people in Sing’s perspective and the other perspective and I had no idea.  I almost had to reread those parts just to characterize the people right.

And there is just something so haunting about the story.  It comes from the writing, since there’s nothing really definitive I can go, “YES. This is where it felt haunting.”  I can’t.  It was just the whole book.  And the whole book felt sort of somber.  Not depressing, just sad.  With glimmers of happiness.

I don’t usually wax poetically about the writing in a story, but this deserves it.  It’s rough to write about music because you’re relying on the audience to have knowledge of music in some way.  And the author did a beautiful job describing not only the music, but the feelings the music inspired in the characters.  A few times, it wanted to rip my heart out just to feed it to the music I couldn’t even hear.  That’s talent.

As a debut, I thought this was wonderful.  Of course, there are some fixes that could’ve been made.  I’ve already described the perspective issue, but also the ending felt a little rushed.  Still, those are just little fixes and not deal-breakers.

(Wow, I had to go all the way back to March 4th to find another book worthy of 5 Roses!)

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