Thank you very much to Odyssey Books for generously providing me with a free ePub copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
It’s been a while since I was able to sit down and actually start reading again. And I guess Odyssey Books must have sensed the moment was right because they sent me this book at the perfect time.
In the midst of a late grocery run on Christmas Eve, Irenya O’Neil suffers a panic attack and tumbles through a mirror, somehow transporting herself into the realm of Dar Orien: a foreign, fantastical land, ravaged by war, and filled with strange magic.
There, Irenya discovers that she possesses a magical Gift of power, and the people start to believe that she is the one destined to save them.
But she couldn’t care less about this strange new land or her new abilities; her only concern is returning home to her infant son.
As she is pulled deeper into the unrest in Dar Orien, Irenya attempts to control her Gift through her love of music, desperate to find her way home.
To start with, the book is very well written, with the strongest parts being focused on Irenya’s love of music and the use of song throughout. The author’s style is emotional and engaging and there’s a soft, lyrical quality to the prose that made it very lovely to read. You can feel how Irenya gets swept up in her passion, and there were moments when I could almost hear the melodies in my head.
Additionally, while the world-building isn’t as in-depth as I usually prefer, there’s still enough detail given to the reader to create a solid impression with a few interesting quirks and ideas sprinkled throughout the magical world. The people of Dar Orien are the best part of this world, providing history and humanity to the setting without dumping information all over the reader.
Unfortunately, while the writing can be beautiful, the slow pace of the plot just didn’t appeal to me. Particularly in the beginning, there was a lot focus on day-to-day tasks and events in Dar Orien, but very little towards advancing the story. I also found myself struggling to relate to Irenya. From the start, we know very little about her; the very first chapter transports her to the magical world without first establishing who Irenya is, or any connection to the family she is trying so hard to return to. The flashes back to the normal world help, but it’s difficult to relate to see her grow as a character without those elements.
With that said, as someone who also suffers from a mental illness, it was nice to read about a protagonist who faces these same sort of challenges. The author’s portrayal, particularly of Irenya’s panic attacks, were very relatable and empathetic, and bring to light an important issue that deserves more recognition and understanding. I hope to see more of this type of main character in stories more often.
While Songbird didn’t end up being a favourite for me, it’s still a well written book with some beautiful prose, and fans of the more slice-of-life style of plot with a little romance on the side will likely find this book to be a sweet, enjoyable read. And with a sequel already out, there’s no better time to check it out.
Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!