A twentieth century woman is lost in a fantasy world with nothing but the clothes on her back and her innate humanity. This is the story of her compelling need to redefine herself.
When Irenya O’Neil suffers a panic attack and falls into the realm of Dar Orien, a world with a failed MageGate system, she finds herself unable to return home to her infant son – she is trapped in a nightmare that tests her sanity.
Confronted with evidence that she possesses a Gift of power, Irenya attempts to control her fledgling talent through music. This could be her ticket home. But Irenya becomes mired in the civil unrest that has befallen Dar Orien. Sickened by the bloodshed and fearful for her own safety, Irenya is desperate to find her way home.
I was given a copy of Songbird by Odessey Publishing in return for an honest review, my thanks to Odessey Publishing and to author J Victoria Michaels for the opportunity.
New mother, Irenya O’Neil is transported from her anxiety and panic-attack ridden life with her husband, David and young son, Mikey from her home of Melbourne to Dar Orien; a medieval, fantasy world. Dar Orien is a mysterious world in which no one is quite what they seem and everyone is holding their cards close to their chests, leaving Irenya frustrated and unable to return to her own world and to her beloved son.
Sadly, I do not feel that I can recommend Songbird to other readers for a few reasons. Firstly, I found the lead character, Irenya O’Neil one dimensional. She goes from being a woman frightened easily that suffers panic attacks taking a trip to her local grocery store to a woman in another land being frightened by pretty much anything and everything that she doesn’t understand. I found very little in her that I could relate to; despite being a mother to a young-man myself. She came across as touchingly pathetic at certain times and at others spiteful and irritating. I didn’t understand the direction in which her motivations took her and at one point in Songbird I questioned if her convictions to return to her child still rang true – especially as the relationship between Irenya and her host in Dar Orien; Elaaron developed from hatred into something more complicated; this relationship development is a highlight of the book and if long, drawn out tensions are your sort of thing then Songbird might be worth picking up as I found this element to the book the most intriguing part, despite Irenya and my thoughts towards her. Undeniably, Irenya goes through a lot of emotional turmoil throughout Songbird. She is discovered to be a ‘Gifted’ something that I am still left questioning as to that exactly that means. She has powers that are uncontrolled which leaves her mistrusted and at the height of suspicion throughout the novel.
I found other characters had a lot more depth and personality to them, Aeryl, the herbalist that is charged with looking after and befriends Irenya and serves as a rudimentary guide to her as she settles into castle life in Dar Orien I found to be particularly enjoyable. However, I don’t think that she was enough to bring the spark of magic to Songbird on her own. Other characters feel woefully flat, Elaaron the archprince, didn’t feel particularly engaging and I didn’t understand how Irenya could turn her back on her son and husband in favour of a relationship with him. I don’t even understand if there was anything between them after having finished the book.
The world of Dar Orien itself has a lot of potential to be an interesting setting, but I don’t feel as though Songbird went deep enough with its explanations of the world-building. I understand that the reveals are meant to be offered slowly as Irenya earned them herself and we’re shown through her eyes the world she has come to inhabit. I just didn’t feel like there was enough of an explanation into the differences between our world and the mystical one. With a bit more observation from Irenya – rather than the blasé attitude that she adopts – Songbird could have been a much more interesting and engaging read than it was. Rather than being treated with rich descriptions of a new world, we’re given descriptions that involve the term ‘something-or-other’ and ‘what’s-his-name.’ Resulting in a carefree attitude from me as a reader. If the main character doesn’t give enough of a damn about the world in which she has come to dwell in, why should I?
I found the plot of Songbird, rather drawn out and ponderous. It slowly plods along from instance to instance and suddenly, Irenya has been in Dar Orien for six months and it doesn’t seem as though much has really happened. Of course there are events that occur with and around Irenya which are well written and keep the book progressing, but I felt like there was no building of tension or leading to events that had any significant impact on the plot as a whole, which I found utterly disappointing. I felt like there was a small increase of pace initially, but then the plot plateaued and never really gained in pace. Songbird was a meandering story that never seemed to get-going and then, it ended. As this is the first in a trilogy Songbird doesn’t conclude to any real sense of satisfaction and I get the impression that the next book in the series will be a direct continuation from where Songbird left off.
Onto something a bit more positive; Songbird has the basics in which to build upon in future instalments to the series. We have a world-setting that has the potential to really shine; there are a lot of unique elements to it, such as the MageGate system – which can be worked on and developed into something really compelling. The characters, Irenya, Elaaron et-al, all have a lot of scope left for development. Theres also the parallel world theory that could be grown and I am hopeful that this plot element – having two Gifted Irenyas in the same place, maybe? – could be really played with further down the line. There is a lot of hope for where the rest of the GriffinSong Trilogy could progress.
Songbird is well written, despite my gripes with character, world-building and plot-pace. Some of the descriptions are really vivid and enjoyable. The wording gives the reader a real sense of place and if I’d had a more relatable guide to explore Dar Orien with, I think I would have enjoyed Songbird a lot more than I did.
Songbird is a book with a lot of wasted potential. What could be an enjoyable world-building story of conflict and compassion falls somewhat flat. A ponderous story ark that never seems to quite get off the ground and into the flow of an enjoyable plot. I am hopeful that future instalments of the series can build on the groundwork set in place during Songbird, but I am managing my expectations.