Songs Of The Earth (The Wild Hunt book 1) by Elspeth Cooper (book review).

October 31, 2019 | By | Reply More

Gair is resigned to the fact that he is about to die, due to be executed for being a witch, so it comes as a bit of a surprise when he instead finds himself exiled, travelling far away in the company of a strange old man. Gair’s powers are strong but outlawed in the society where he grew up.

Now, as he journeys to new lands, Gair finds that his talents are needed by a small band of Guardians who strive to protect the land from others that seek to encroach. Yet as Gair hones his skills and finds love in his new home, a strange voice calls to him, a voice that could bring death to everyone he cares about.

‘Songs Of The Earth’ is the first in Elspeth Cooper’s fantasy series, ‘The Wild Hunt’. Following a young man called Gair, it takes us on a journey through a sweeping fantasy world where magic is punishable by death and only in a few protected areas are mages encouraged to flourish. We have hints of portal fantasy coming through, with veils between worlds popping up as a sort of side note that promises more for future books in the series, and a range of magical skills that are fun to follow.

Unfortunately, while the magic is interesting and the world has potential, it feels like a lot of the detail is glossed over. Gair’s travels through various lands are recorded but not expanded on. There’s no life in these places and they don’t have enough distinction between them to make the world feel fully realised.

It’s as though the author knew where she wanted to get to, figured that some kind of journey was needed, but forgot to add anything to her first brief outline of what might happen. It’s a shame, because Gair is a likeable character and I wanted to buy into this world more fully than I was able to.

Similarly, the characters don’t really get a chance to shine through. Gair himself develops quite nicely and it was good to follow him from a land where he was feared and reviled for his magic to a place where he was accepted and loved.

However, most other characters felt like they were there to fulfil a role, the love interest, the wise mentor, the evil outcast and were not only lacking in depth but also very stereotypical characters that could have made their homes in any fantasy world. Even Gair was difficult to enjoy as a character at times because it didn’t feel like he had to work for anything, things just fell nicely into place once he’d escaped his home country.

This all sounds like I didn’t enjoy reading ‘Songs Of The Earth’ but that isn’t true. I did enjoy it, the whole thing was fine and it passed a few hours perfectly pleasantly. The problem is that there was nothing surprising in there, nothing that was completely new and innovative and no characters that made me want to laugh or cry with them.

It was all just, well, adequate. I liked it, but almost immediately forgot most of the details when I finished. It was entertaining, but not immersive. I think this was a debut novel so I’m hoping that the rest of the series will improve and bring bit more energy to the remainder of the story.

I don’t begrudge the time I spent reading this book and if you’re pretty new to the genre it isn’t a bad starting point because much of what I found to be commonplace is probably quite far out there if you only read crime fiction. However, for fans of the fantasy genre, I’d say that you’ve probably read things like this before and seen it done better.

Vinca Russell

October 2019

(pub: Gollancz, 2011. 420 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08615-8)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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