Author: Fran Wilde
Series? Yes. Trilogy?
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I received a copy of this book through Netgalley and Tor in exchange for an honest review.
On paper this was everything I wanted: a unique fantasy world with a strong female cast, featuring luscious proses. However, I was left underwhelmed and a little bored as I found it hard to connect to the main character.
SETTING: A Song Of Wind & Bones
The city rises on the wings of Singers,
and Trader and Crafter,
Rises to the sun and wind, all together,
Never looking down
The setting is haunting and beautiful, with towered cities constructed of living bones, where a primary mode of transport are strapped-on silk wings. The towers are all separate distinct economical entities, and it is up to Traders to fly between them to conduct businesses. Governing these towers are purportedly protecting them are is The Spire, an enigmatic organisation of Singers. Much of the world is devoted to sky, wind, and sounds. An ever looming threat to this civilisation are Skymouths, grotesque monsters which periodically visits the towers, bringing with them death and carnage.
The city speaks all the time. And we speak to it. The Singers who are enclosed tell us what the city wants. What it dreams for itself.
My favourite part of the story was the rich world building, backed up strongly by Fran Wilde’s beautiful proses. The world is not only unique and gorgeous, it’s multilayered – with multiple secrets hidden in the foundation of these bone-spun towers. I love the stark contrasts in this world. Half of it lies in the freedom of the open sky and wind, the other is weighed down by the ever present bones: bones construct their makeshift wings, bones forming their homes and cities, and bone chips representing their crimes and guilt.
Even more impressive is the research the author has shown: in her engineering of the wings, in her understanding of wind and gravity and flight. I love a fantasy world that gives you a sense of verisimilitude!
CAST OF CHARACTERS
This is where the book faltered for me, and I still can’t quite grasp why. Maybe I was in a reading slump, but I really struggled to identify with the characters. In theory: I should have eaten all of this up with a spoon:
I wished for the first time that I could have grown up here, that I’d been taught what had really happened, instead of a merely pretty song filled with lies about the city I loved. There was power in the knowing.
- Kirit, our protagonist, is the typical fantasy hero who aspires to a normal life and gets thrown a grand curveball. Though she aspire to become a trader like her illustrious mother, one life changing event forces her to join The Spire. Her naturally rebellious nature is at conflict with The Spire’s firm belief in tradition. I usually love heroines who questions the societal norm and all that jazz (lucky me, as they are in 50% of the books I read) – but I just couldn’t connect with Kirit. I felt emotionally distant from her despite the narration being first person.
- Kirit’s Relationships: Nothing evolves to a full blown romance in this book – and while I appreciate that, it also meant that Kirit did not forge any meaningful relationship throughout the novel. I didn’t feel an emotional connection with any of her interactions. As Kirit held all of her potential suitors at arm’s length, I also gave 0 eff about them. This is the same for her relationship with her mother, so-called childhood friend, etc… In fact, when one of them supposedly died, I still remained BORED.
- Sellis: She gets her own section because I was ready to hold out for an epic female friendship, I love it when they are hate-at-first-sight! Alas, my hopes were largely dashed, with Sellis being somewhat villainized (also somewhat dismissed as trivial) in the end. I AM TOO UPSET FOR WORDS. Especially as this is the relationship I was most invested in.
WRITING & THEMES
On a morning like this, fear was a blue sky emptied of birds. It was the smell of cooking trapped in closed towers, of smoke looking for ways out. It was an ache in the back of the eyes from searching the distance, and a weight in the stomach as old as our city.
As I’m sure you’ve realised by all my bleating on about it in this post, and the quotes I pulled out, the writing is gorgeous and I cannot fault it. It’s filled with imageries and flows just like the songs sung by the bone cities. If you’re looking for some beautiful proses, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this book.
I also love the themes at play here, the question about knowledge and freedom, progress and tradition, are all issues I never get tired of reading about. Overall, I think there’s definitely more good than bad to this book – but I personally could not care enough for the characters to worry too much about their issues and their existential crisis. However, I will be looking out for more of Fran Wilde’s work in the future!