on March 11, 2014
Genres: fantasy, gothic, paranormal
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A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems
Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.
Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?
Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.
Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.
A wish granting feral space cat.
This book has one. I kind of just want to leave that there and walk away. Seriously, do you need to know more?! Okay, okay fine.
Were you like me? Did you take one look at the synopsis, see that the main character’s name is Sing, and that she…sings? Did you think this book must therefore be senselessly silly? If you were like me I have good news for you: you tragically underestimated Strange Sweet Song.
Yes, Sing is a very silly name and especially for a singer. This is true. It should console you to know that Sing herself hates it as well. Her parents were celebrities in the classical music world. Think of it as an unfortunate celebrity baby name. It is a part of her prison. A command, and a constant reminder of the shadow of her famous parents from under which she cannot escape.
The story is told in three alternating points of view. It is mostly Sing’s story with the other POVs providing the harmony to her melody, weaving in and out, supporting and enhancing her journey like the lines of a symphony.The contrasting plotlines begin far flung from each other. There is an air of mystery to the story. We don’t start out knowing who the third POV really is and how his story is related to Sing’s. I loved the way that this plotline slowly unfolded revealing the answers bit by luxuriant bit. The mystery itself is so fascinating and is told on a much larger scale than it at first seems.
The history of the Felix and the mystery at large come together as the book goes on crescendoing toward the convergence with Sing’s storyline. Do not go into this expecting fast paced twists and revelations. This is a book that takes its time with the plot and arriving at its answers. It is so sumptuously written I just reveled in the details and in Sing’s quiet, yet powerful reflections.
Oh, and in case you were wondering. Yes, the wish granting space cat is one of the POVs. Space cat POV! And that is all I will say on that subject lest I should spoil anything for you.
I thought Sing was so realistically and wonderfully portrayed. Ambitious, yet full of self doubt. She struggles to find and define herself under the weight of the expectations placed on her. She is in fierce competition with the school’s resident diva but the other character never delves into a “mean girl” caricature. Sing herself does some not so great things in her pursuit of the lead role.And in many ways, this is a coming of age story. Sing makes mistakes. She makes bad decisions, she handles her friendships poorly, she falls for the resident gregarious bad boy…I love that in the midst of this atmospheric, mystical, Gothic setting (there is a SPACE CAT prowling the forests) there is a normal teenage girl making normal human mistakes. She is a good person with good intentions at heart. She’s just as flawed as all the rest of us humans. It made her story even more special to me.
Sing has been struggling with her voice for the past two years. Something is off. She isn’t at her best. She lives in her mother’s shadow and it’s crushing her. And yet sometimes there is no magical curse. Sometimes the only person holding us back is ourselves. There is a real world magic in discovering that you can be the rescuer in your own fairy tale.
The romance is unexpected, and it blossoms much later in the book than I liked, but it was so, so lovely. I can appreciate the long setup in some ways, and the transformation of the relationship between these two characters is so subtle and has its very own magic. The scenes between Sing and her love interest spark with such a happy glow. They practically glimmer with tension and unspoken longing. Really, there are moments in this book that are heart stoppingly sweet. And then, it’s also very bittersweet. There is a unique paranormal element that complicates things a bit. Sometimes love slips through your fingers despite the best of intentions. Sometimes there are forces beyond ourselves at play.
This book brought me the closest to having a book hangover that I’ve had yet in 2014. Days later I was still thinking of these characters and what’d they’d been through with that telltale little heart pang that lets me know when a book means something special.
I hope I have been somewhat cryptic and unrevealing in this review. It was my intention but hopefully it was not confusing! This book is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible going into it. Just relax and let the plotlines unfurl. Let it slowly reveal the mysteries and transform the relationships. The only thing that held me back from a higher rating is that I wish there had been less focus on the normal, every day nitty gritty of Sing’s high school life (and that regrettable drama with the scurrilous charmer) around the mid point of the book and more focus on the actual love story.
I am just so very fond of this gothic and moody, mysterious and ethereal story. I loved its exploration of transformations both magical and mundane, physical and incorporeal. I can’t do justice to how lovely and lyrical Adi Rule’s writing is. You must experience it for yourself.
If you have ever known what it is to long for something, to be something that you cannot have or cannot be. If you love music. If you have ever experienced that intense connection that only happens when two people share their love for a work of art, when you connect on that level of intense shared humanity. If you have ever had a love that could not be kept no matter how hard you grasped at it or how hard you wished for it…this book is for you.
I’d like to thank my cousin Emily for choosing this as her pick for our two person book club. To my detriment I would not have read it otherwise. Thanks, Em!