Today, as part of Songs of Insurrection‘s Release Day Blitz, organized by Storytellers On Tour, Jen is here to review JC Kang‘s re-edited and freshly released Epic Fantasy novel, the first in the Dragon Songs Saga. Be sure to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this review.
A huge thank you goes out to JC Kang for providing an ecopy in exchange for a honest review!
|Series: Dragon Songs Saga #1||Genre: Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: March 12th 2021 (re-release)||Trigger Warnings: violence, mentions of prostitution, manipulation|
|Page count: 441||Publisher: Self-published|
Only the lost magic of Dragon Songs can save the world. Only an awkward girl with the perfect voice can rediscover it.
The Dragon Singers of old summoned typhoons and routed armies, liberating mankind from the orcs before fading into legend. Now, with the world again facing a new cataclysm, the power of music stirs in Kaiya, a naïve misfit with the perfect voice.
Without a master to guide her, she must rely on Hardeep, a disgraced foreign paladin, to help awaken her latent magic. His motives might not be entirely noble. When he leads her to the fabled Dragon Scale Lute, which only a Dragon Singer can wield, it is up to Black Lotus Clan to intervene.
Because the instrument’s fell power can save the world…
Or destroy it.
“Though she kept the pluck light, its eerie moan came out loud. Even Hardeep turned his head, his irises reflecting the blue Eye of Guanyin in the heavens above.
Several more plucks reverberated louder than they should, given the amount of force she used. The descending heptatonic scales all made logical sense, and even if each note seemed to evoke the feeling of an emperor’s betrayal, a queen’s execution, or the outbreak of a plague, the sound was tonally perfect and frighteningly beautiful. No wonder that in the hands of an elf it could compel a dragon to flee.”
Strange Birds by Birdy – It’s hard to find a western song that suits such an atmospheric Asian setting and I am not familiar enough with Chinese artists. So I decided to pick something with lyrics that fit Kaiya’s insecurities and her longing for Prince Harkeep.
Now I want to fly into your world
I want to be heard.
Songs of Insurrection, is a fun and twisty romp through a richly layered world. Somewhere between political mystery and coming of age story, its setting is an interesting mix of traditional and current, gritty and beautiful, naïve and worldly.
On the one side we have Kaiya – the young gangly princess, sheltered and terribly naïve. It’s her duty as an imperial princess to marry well; strengthening ties between countries. But Kaiya fears losing her identity with such a marriage, and her one joy; her music. Kaiya is anxious to prove to herself and others, that she can be more than just the wife that tradition allows. Given the opportunity, she believes her music can be used to help others, so, when Prince Harkeep comes looking for aid, she jumps at the chance to prove she is more than an ornament.
Kaiya’s parts of the story, especially in the beginning have a distinctly Asian feel; with the back-drop of the palace grounds and its gorgeously named temples – the setting is as beautiful as the book cover implies.
I am also really drawn to music-based magic, so I enjoyed those scenes with her a lot. I think the beauty of the setting and the sound, together, made for some lovely moments.
Yes, Kaiya, is very naïve, and yes, I definitely wanted to slap her silly some of the time. But as frustrating as she could be, Kaiya’s life/world at the palace almost feels like a whole other planet compared to the world down by the docks with its workers, thieves, and pleasure houses, making it easier to understand how one so sheltered could be so gullible- also with four books in the series, I am going to assume she slowly makes progress and gains some worldliness.
Which brings us to the other side of the coin, where we have Jie – the half-elf spy (who I met last year when I read JC Kang’s Masters of Deception, and fell in love). She is spunky and just a lot of fun. Trained as a Black Lotus, she sees the seedier side of the world and people and is a lot more open-eyed when it comes to the shortcomings and ulterior motives of people around her.
I was very glad to see Jie in this book and I loved her and Tian’s parts of the story, which fall into more of an intrigue/spy category – something I really enjoy blended into pretty much every genre that I read.
I liked how the difference between the palace and ship yard were showcased. The juxtaposition of two parts of the story were so strongly contrasted that you can feel the class difference where it’s gruffer in Jie’s neck of the woods, compared to Kaiya’s scenes where everything has beautiful names, and is very formal.
As the story progresses and the mystery at the docks bleeds over to Kaiya’s parts of the story, the world opens up quite a bit. I said this in Masters of Deception, but you never feel like these characters exist inside a bubble because these stories are so full of people, cultures, and powerplays – big and small.
One thing you find in self-pub is a willingness to straddle the genres. While Kaiya’s coming of age parts of the story feel almost YA, Jie’s parts prove that is not the case- there is a pretty complicated and twisty subplot going on underneath the surface.
The story is full of old tradition but with a modern feel, as Kaiya actually thinks about things like periods (even if it is referred to as morning dew) and our cast of players all the way around is incredibly diverse and despite being set against that tradition heavy back-drop, there are some powerful women like Wen (who runs the brothel) thrown in the mix.
I was so busy suspecting Harkeep of being Avarax in disguise, that I missed the signs pointing to the actual bad guy. I also did wonder if there was a bit of magical coercion going on with the prince but that could have been my distrust of Hardeep’s motives.