SONG OF THE BEAST, BY CAROL BERG
This book has been in my to-read list for so long, I had almost forgotten it. Dragons are one of my favorite fantastical creatures, as I'm sure is the case for many people. I'm pretty sure this wasn't recommended to me by anyone, but I still thought it was about time I read it.
Synopsis: Aidan, the best musician in recorded history and cousin to the king, is one day imprisoned and ordered to remain silent for seven years. No explanation for this order or the reason of his incarceration is offered. Once he is finally released, and while trying to overcome his suffering, he uncovers the plot that has determined his fate.
Overall enjoyment: It started off well enough, but kinda lost its way in the middle. The narrative was truncated, and the ending left a lot to be desired. I'd give it a 5.5 out of 10.
Plot: Not very well constructed. The plot devices are very feeble, and the story is disconnected at some points. Some of the narrative choices were poorly made. The last quarter of the book is much worse than the rest; it kinda feels like Berg had to rush through the ending to meet her deadline.
Characters: Aidan is a very well-developed and interesting character. The same cannot be said for the other characters in this book.
World/setting: The standard medieval-based fantasy setting, but very well done and solid; she clearly put a lot of thought into it. There are no holes or major deficiencies, and some very interesting details. Maybe it is a different world, since there are humanoid beings that aren't human at all. The political ambient in this world is very well thought out, but it would have been nice to have a better explanation of the caste-like system among the humans.
Writing style: Mostly pleasant, but disconnected at some points. The book is written in the first person with Aidan as narrator, but it switches to other characters in a few points, and that was not a good choice. She introduces a major character a few pages from the end and then has him saving the day, Deus Ex Machina style. Also, the romance between Lara and Aidan was so sudden and awkwardly written it felt nonsensical.
Representation: Very poor. The only passing reference to POC is one minor character threatening his daughter with marriage into a Family where men have more than one wife and she would have to hide her face with a veil. But no character of this Family makes an actual appearance, they just loom as distant menaces. The race that is exploited and nearly enslaved is described as fair-skinned and blond with grey eyes. They were definitely asexual and nonbinary, but they were also not human, so that hardly counts.
Political correctness: On top of the poor representation, there is also the almost complete absence of women. There is only two major female characters, and one of them dies within the first chapters. The treatment given to them is also less than ideal: the only reason why the death of the first female character isn't refrigeratoring is because Aidan didn't care enough about her to be spurned to vengeance. And Lara, who started off as an interesting character with a fascinating story of her own turned out in the end to be merely Aidan's kickass love interest.
Up next: Angelopolis, by Danielle Trussoni