Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Song of the Ean" by Emily Nordberg

I read the last two hundred pages of this yesterday.  That was partly because, now that my brain has rested from finishing the first draft of my own WIP, I'm hungry for fiction.  Ravenously hungry.  And it was partly because my kids were being really nice and playing together without much fighting.  And it was partly because I know Emily Nordberg, and I've felt so bad that it's taken me so long to finish reading her book.  I bought it a couple of months ago, when she first released it, but then had to keep setting it aside to finish reading challenges, quick read books that were due at the library, and so on.  But happily, yesterday I had the means, motive, and opportunity to inhale the rest of the book, so I did.

Song of the Ëan is the story of a bored, spoiled young prince who goes on what should be a routine trip to collect tribute from an island province, only to become embroiled in its people's fight against an oppressive governor.  Over the course of the story, we see him change from a shallow, self-centered youth to a mature, brave, and generous man.  It's a remarkably believable character arc, and by the end of the book, I had grown very fond of him, even though at the beginning, I didn't like him much at all.

The ëan are the rebel forces, named for the eagles that assist them occasionally.  Their leader, called Auria, is a fierce young woman with a keen understanding of strategy, a compassionate heart, and a peerless mastery of hand-to-hand combat.  She gets her own beautiful character arc, and of the two main characters, she was by far my favorite.

This is technically fantasy, in that many characters can communicate with animals, but there is no magic involved.  The people worship Aiael, also called El, the One True God, who is clearly meant to be the God of the Old Testament called by another name.  Their faith infuses all they do with love and courage, and this is definitely one of the best intertwinings of Christianity and fantasy writing I have read in a long while.

This is Emily Nordberg's debut novel, and while her pacing is not always strong, her world-building and character development richly rewarded me.  I'm going to let my 9-year-old son read this now that I've finished it -- it's absolutely clean, aside from one mention of a minor character's mother having had a "reputation," which is exactly how it is phrased.  As my son loves fantasy and anything with a strong female character, I think he's going to enjoy this -- possibly even more than I did!  In fact, he was cheering me on as I read yesterday, because I said he couldn't start reading this until I finished it, and he's been eager to get at it for a long time now.

Particularly Good Bits: 

Ignorance was not exactly bliss, but it was better than knowledge.  Both created fear, but one was a foolish fear while the other was wise.  He did not enjoy being wise (p. 82).

"In the beginning of our world, Aiael created us -- mankind, his children.  He created a people to fill the land and rule over it, to live at one with it.  He made us to display his glory in the world, each in his own unique way.  We were patterned after his nature, designed to be creative as Aiael is.  To this end, each child of Aiael is granted a gift -- which he or she may use to fulfill his calling" (p. 241).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good, wholesome fun.

This is my first book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017, hosted by My Reader's Block.  She says if you're less than halfway through a book when the challenge started, you could count it, and I was only about 200 pages in, out of 500, on January first, so it counts!

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