Saturday, 14 October 2017

Book Review: Allaigna's Song: Overture by J. M. Landels

Book Review: Allaigna's Song: Overture
Author: J. M. Landels
Rating: 5/5

Yuko Ichihara, the witch who ran the store of the wishes in the anime xxxHolic, would always say that there are no such thing as coincidences. Everything is inevitable.

So maybe it was inevitable that I would eventually buy JM Landels' Allaigna's Song: Oveture.

Or maybe it was magic?

The book sure felt magical to me. I had already had quite big of a "To Be Read" pile, and as I added this book to it I kept wondering when I would be able to start it, let alone finish it. I need not have worried though, the book's exciting pace and variations in the point of view kept my attention tightly focused on the story and kept my attention from diverting.

I finished it before all the other books in my TBR pile. Totally worth it!

Without giving away too many major plot lines, here's the general picture: Allaigna, the eldest child of Lord and Lady Osthegn, Duke and Duchess of Teillai, discovers that she has certain magical abilities. These abilities manifest primarily through her music. At the age of seven, when she received her first hint that she is capable of this power, she started receiving lessons from her nurse, Angeley on how to control it and use it.

The story takes us through her life as she grows up. Like any other young teenager, she has her emotional moments and goes through her own set of hardships, competing with her younger siblings, trying to follow orders that she did not agree with, and understanding her place in Teillai. More importantly, she learns more and more about how powers, what they mean and how best to wield them. Through trial and error, she discovers different aspects of this magical ability.

Eventually, she is sent to be a page, and later a squire to Rheran, where the High Prince Chanist rules. In his castle, she learns more on how to navigate the life in a court. She makes friends and acquaintances who are not quite friends, and learns of secrets old and new. The story ends on a dramatic note, and will leave the reader yearning to know more of what happens next. I certainly can't wait to read the next book!

Like puzzle pieces, the stories of Alleigna's predecessors/ancestors (I'm really trying hard not to give away ANY story plots here) are also woven into the main narrative. Their pasts add valuable information to Allaigna's present and definitely helps the reader understand were these ladies are coming from, the decision they are making that will shape the future and how they ultimately affect Allagina's life. Aptly named as "Irdaign's Chorus" and "Lauresa's Chrous", they are the perfect ending to every chapter of Allaigna's song.

These three distinct yet interwoven narratives are what I loved most about this book. True, the choruses were a departure from the main song, but a true maestro knows how best to put together different verses into seamless music, and JM Landels has outdone it! I was hungry for more, rushing through it all like an addict. The fact that the prose of the book sounded so much like poetry made it all the more magnificent. 

The picture she drew of the kingdoms and their politics was amazing. Usually I am not very good at following the political aspects of stories, and remembering so many characters can be difficult for me sometimes. So it took me a while and I had to keep going back and forth throughout the book to remember who was who. Thankfully, Landels has kept a handy dramatis personae at the very beginning of the book, which certainly helped yours truly!

She also knew how best to balance the discovery and usage of Allagina's powers with that of the political setting of her court life. On one hand, Allagina learns and discovers ways she can harness this ability, but this part of the story does not overpower that of her life as Allainga Andreg, daughter of Duke and Duchess of Teillai. Landels masterfully shows us both. Although, I must say I wanted to see Allaigna use her awesome superpower a little bit more!

More than anything, I loved reading about the strong female characters in this book. Through her mastery in storytelling, Landels has shown that strength does not necessarily have to come from being strong and tough and persistent, but that it can also come from vulnerability, sacrifice and even mistakes. The characters each had their own flaws which made them more human and more realistic, and thereby added to their strength.

I am glad I pursued my decision in getting this book. It has been a most magical experience.

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