Sunday, March 1, 2020

Book Review: 'Allaigna's Song: Overture (Allaigna's Song, #1)' by J.M. Landels

Allaigna's Song by J.M. Landels

An immensely satisfying epic

Canadian author JM (Jennifer) Landels makes an impressive literary debut with ALLAIGNA’S SONG: OVERTURE. Perhaps her depth of background for molding this engaging ritual of coming of age in the panorama of a challenging family is obvious: she is co-founder and managing editor of the quarterly Pulp Literature, a former affiliate with punk bands, earned her degree in Mediaeval English Literature, is an artist, rides in mounted combat, and is a childbirth educator and doula – among other things!

As a portal to the extended magical journey this book opens, the author/artist shares maps of the regions the story embraces and a list of the characters from the Imperial Age 1587 -1598, Teillai and Rheran, in the Principalities of Aerach and Brandishear. That degree of concern for the immediate involvement of the reader is a gesture that permeates Landels’ initial novel. 

Creating characters about whom we care and elect to follow is a gift Jennifer owns. She introduces her title character as follows: ‘If you walk down the grand staircase of Castle Osthegn, you will see a family portrait. It is placed across the landing from the wide steps so that your eye is drawn helplessly into the picture as you descend. Such is the skill of the Leisanmira painter that you are almost convinced that the little girt on the right will jump out of the frame and take off pell-mell into the courtyard. And you can tell that is what she wanted to be doing when the image was painted. That little girl was me.’ Using this directly conversational tone allows the reader to enter the domain and meet the characters of the story with comfort – and expected fascination.

The story – ‘When Allaigna was seven she almost sang her baby brother to sleep — forever. She may be heir to neither her mother’s titles nor her secrets, but she has inherited her grandmother’s dangerous talent for singing music into magic. As her education proceeds from nursery to weapons ground to the rank of royal page, it becomes increasingly hard to keep her heritage and abilities hidden. Secrets, it seems, are stock-in-trade for her family, and as Allaigna works to keep her own, she uncovers two that will affect both her life and the unstable peace of the Ilmar nations. One is the fate of her grandmother, who married a prince, turning the gift of the Sight into a double-edged weapon of state. The other is the truth behind her mother’s two-week disappearance following an ambush by outlaws en route to her wedding. As she discovers who she is, Allaigna must decide what to become: the skilled courtier her mother wants her to be, the political chess piece her father bargained on, or the hero her grandmother foresaw. ‘

Jennifer M Landels delivers her richly woven story with both grace and ardor as befits the realm of her tale. Yes, the story includes magic, even beyond the quality of the prose, and loom is elaborated with line drawing illustrations. This is a fine launch for a promised series – one that seems destined to become a standard! Recommended.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.