Book Review: Orphan’s Song (Songkeeper Chronicles #1)

Her solo is a death sentence.

Deep within the world of Leira flows a melody that was sung at the beginning of time by Emhran, the Master Singer. Now it is broken, buried, forgotten. But in each generation, a Songkeeper arises to uphold the memory of the Song against those who want it silenced forever.

When Birdie first hears the Song coming from her own mouth, her world shatters. She is no longer simply an orphan but the last of a hunted people. Forced to flee for her life, she must decide whom to trust—a traveling peddler, a streetwise thief, or a mysterious creature who claims to know her past.

With enemies at her heels and war threatening to tear her homeland apart, Birdie soon discovers an overwhelming truth: the fate of Leira may hinge on one orphan’s Song.

If you like Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia, you’ll enjoy Orphan’s Song. Like Tolkien, Adams welcomes readers into a masterfully crafted world that follows a diverse cast of characters through well-developed landscapes. Like Lewis, Adams uses one story to point to Another, weaving a narrative that relies on and highlights the Greatest Narrative of all.

The first time I read this book, I thought the beginning was a little slow and—almost, just for the first few pages—uninteresting. The conflict, between Birdie and her stepmother-type mistress, seemed to be nothing out of the literary ordinary. Birdie herself didn’t strike me as any great character either: young, quiet, orphaned, and abused by her caretakers. Yet she is the only one who can hear a mysterious melody, a Song that can silence the world—and bring the dark soldiers right to her door.

In a matter of pages, I discovered that the conflict reaches far beyond little Birdie and her life in Hardale. Events began to pick up pace, and the gears of the story locked in a little deeper. I was hooked—especially once I met Ky and the Underground.

As much as I loved Amos and wanted to find out more about Birdie, I would have been happy to read an entire book about Ky and the runners of Kerby. I loved the Underground: their culture, their diversity, their fight for survival, their heritage from the great outlaws themselves. Adams proves herself a skilled writer as she weaves not one story but two, keeping them distinct even after they unite.

The stakes grow higher as the stories continue. Each main character faces equal amounts of external and internal conflict, balancing the story and giving depth to the characters. I understood Birdie and her desire to learn more about the Song. I understood Amos and his reluctance to return to his past. I understood Ky and his drive to protect all of the Underground. I related to (and rooted for!) all of them.

Then came the climax, brought about by impeccable storytelling as events bled naturally into each other. Then it was the end, and I found myself satisfied by the story I’d just read while aching for the rest of it. Such a mix of contentment and longing points again to good writing—good writing that doesn’t always end the story with the book.

Overall, Adams has proven herself a gifted writer who has won my admiration and deep appreciation:

  • For storytelling, five stars.
  • For writing, five stars. Adams’s sentences get long sometimes, but overall her style is good, and her word pictures are amazing.
  • For characters, five stars. Her cast is remarkably diverse and deep. Only one of the side characters seemed a little flat and predictable.
  • For worldbuilding, five stars. Detailed enough to make you comfortable but never too detailed to bore or lose you.
  • For cleanness, five stars. This book is squeaky clean for audiences of all ages. No gory details, no language—unless you count “bogswoggle” :)—and nothing sensual.
  • For balance, five stars. Readers don’t need to be familiar with the Bible to enjoy Adams’s story, but it will resonate deeply with those who recognize her allusions to biblical themes and characters. Like the Song, the Deeper Story hums in the background, giving depth to this story without preaching or smacking readers in the face.

I wish I could share everything I enjoyed and learned and wondered as I read Orphan’s Song, but it’s better that you read it yourself. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone in search of a good story—or the Deeper Story.

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