Enchantments run deep on the magical Isle of Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armour, and the smallest cut of a knife can instil fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that live there find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home, but that mischief turns to malevolence as girls begin to go missing.
Adaira, heiress of the east, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, enticing them to return the missing girls. But there’s only one bard capable of drawing the spirits forth by song: her childhood enemy Jack Tamerlaine.
He hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university, but as Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than first thought and an older, darker secret lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.
Sarah J Maas’s Crescent City meets Uprooted in acclaimed YA author Rebecca Ross’s brilliant first adult fantasy.
I really enjoyed this Scottish folk tale inspired fantasy set on a fictional island of Cadence. A large part of it felt like a fantasy thriller, a subgenre I knew thought I was going to come across.
Jack Tamerlaine, one of the four protagonists, is summoned back home to his native island of Cadence by his laird. John has been studying music for 12 years and has even become a teaching assistant at university (ok, nothing magical so far, folks). The island itself is divided between two warring clans- Braccans and Tamerlaines. It turns out he has been summoned to assist his laird (or rather an acting laird since the real one is terminally ill) to solve a mystery- three little girls have been kidnapped and the clan folk are worried these disappearances may continue (again nothing magical, even though some Tamerlaines believe the lasses were taken by the spirits). The world Rebecca Ross built (and it’s a well-built world, with lots of details) is very much a mortal world with mortal problems and solutions. Rest assured, it is still a fantasy land with elemental magic and at some point spirits of water, land and air do make their appearance.
The main characters are well-developed -each one has their unique personality and unique voice. There’s our bard Jack (John) Tamerlaine and his childhood nemesis Aidara- theirs is a story of building trust and figuring our where they belong to, each one separately and together. Then there’s another fascinating couple that in many ways outshines Jack and Adi- Torin and his wife Sidra, who is also a wonderful stepmother to Torin’s daughter Maisie. Brought together by necessity and love for Maisie, they are the proverbial opposites whose love is wrought with tension and self-discovery. He is a soldier, the Captain of the clan Guard, his job is to protect by all means, while she is a healer, who’d give her life to help anyone in need whatever their origin and life story is. There’s also Jack’s family- talking about them would necessarily mean going into the island’s particular magic system and its history and I don’t want to give the story away.
The pace is what my blogger friend Yesha calls ‘steady’- things develop gradually, we get to know the characters as they deal with/investigate the girls’ disappearances. The pace picks up in the final part where some secrets are revealed and loose ends are tied. At the end of the book I felt thoroughly prepared for the second book (I guess it is going to be a duology) – I have certain expectations and ideas, and yet, the future is wide open, anything can happen in the new, mysterious setting I can’t wait to explore.
Even though this isn’t a short book, I couldn’t put it down and genuinely didn’t want it to end. If the second part was already published, I’d go for it straightaway.
Recommended- absolutely! I read and listened to the audio version at the same time and I must say Ruth Urquhart did a wonderful job as a narrator.