Author: Samantha Kroese
Genre: Fantasy (Fairy Tale Romance X Horror)
Bound by Song. Cursed by Fate
Ruyne, Leader of the Dusksinger bards, travels with his band from town to town, thrilling crowds with inspiring music born from an ancient magic. He leads a charmed life with his brother, and two life-long best friends.
Disaster strikes when Ruyne ignores a cryptic message from a loved one. The band’s idyllic peace is shattered by a monster from the past, and the horrifying truth behind their magic is revealed, leaving their lives in tatters and the hearts of the four men forever scarred. Scattered and broken, can they harmonize their Song in time to prevent a tragedy of apocalyptic proportions?
Rating: Enthralling, Inspiring, Moving, Incomplete. (I like this much better than choosing a number! Don’t you think?)
The First Review (no big spoilers here):
Cursed Song starts with an enticing prologue that sets the world and the stage, so the reader knows, or at least can guess, what the Dusksingers are and the horrifying truth behind their magic long before any of the characters. The prologue is almost a very short story of its own, that ties in with the rest of the novel, right up to the very end, in ways that are both foreshadowed but not foreknown. And it really caught my attention, written from the perspective of the shallow and villainous Travain, who brings the curse of the Siren Queen down on his head by killing a siren for her song magic because he can’t stand being looked down on or sneered at for not having much of his own. Yet Travain does not really intend his villainy; he is more caught up in his selfish and shallow pursuits, interests, and bitterness. The curse of the Queen of the Sirens and her reasoning and interactions with Travain caught my attention even more so, as she reasons that killing him will not bring back her daughter or do her world any good, and so she ensnares him in an elaborate curse – him and all the descendants he will be compelled to have. And her anger and rage, having lost her daughter to him, is understandable and palpable. The scene only grows in richness, as one reflects on it later and on all that came from those moments and choices.
On a side note, I enjoyed the scenery descriptions. The description of the underwater world and the palace of the Siren Queen, both here and later, were very catching and beautiful.
From there, one is thrust into the world and lives of the four protagonists, Ruyne, who is to be Leader and whose mother is dying, finally following his father who died two years earlier, his brother Shadow, and his best friends, Silver and Derry. They are a band within a band of differences and many different kinds of love, and they were all very engaging to read about. I really enjoyed how much the reader is shown their lives – there’s nothing epic or world-changing shown at first, but just their friendship, the tensions and the bonds, the differences in their personalities and interests, and how their lives interact with the Band as a whole. I really enjoy that in a book. I really enjoy just seeing the characters’ lives and being involved in them as they go about their lives, and just seeing who they are and what their life is like. And that was one of the things I really liked about Cursed Song – even when the stakes do become epic and apocalyptic, the sort of “Slice of Life” feel to them remains. The real involvement, the thing that makes it seem that this matters, this really, really matters come from the characters, their love and pain for each other, and their personal lives and desires. And right to the end we see little moments, such as Silver playing with Truyna.
And did I mention? Within the little band of Ruyne and his friends, there are two sets of romances that each face their very different challenges. Ruyne is very serious about his duties as Leader, as opposed to the careful, rule-breaking if not rule-flaunting Shadow. Silver is the only person he trusts enough to halve his soul and song for, to Song-Bind to, yet as Leader he should marry and have children, and Silver is desperately in love with them. Meanwhile, Shadow and Derry, who is a rather shier, quieter person, have their own very real challenges, and I absolutely love how insurmountable Shadow’s love for Derry is, no matter the challenges or obstacles! The one problem with the book (but it looks like it may not be such of a problem, since I think the author is going to write and release this part as well) is that a lot of really important stuff in Shadow’s life and his search for Derry is missing.
And here are a few lines that really stood out to me:
A cool breeze whistled through the forest from the sea, and Derry paused to watch the shadowed limbs blow in the early afternoon light. Death was still in the air, and the sea called to him. It had since he was born. He had never told anyone, though. Those who could hear the call of the sea were said to be between worlds and on their final journey. How would they explain the boy who had heard it since birth?
The Real Review (I can’t say what I really felt and thought and consider spoilers at the same time!):
It’s hard to say everything I really liked about Cursed Song without telling the whole book. Even then, it won’t really work, because it’s not so much this thing or that, as the whole story, the whole lives of the characters, and there are things here or there that bring it out, that aren’t the same alone.
The development of the relationship between Ruyne and Silver was really enjoyable to follow. Ruyne is serious about the laws and being Leader (as I mentioned earlier). Silver is in love with him, and Silver is the only person Ruyne would be willing to Song-Bind to, but Ruyne isn’t really sexually attracted to Silver, he’s more attracted to women, and that balance was interesting to see – that he’s not willing to have that attachment without a committed, intimate, very deep platonic relationship that doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic, though the Song-Binding brings a romantic and sexual element into it. Silver’s love for Ruyne is so strong and fun to watch, and Ruyne’s love and dependence on Silver is awesome, though there’s a point where Ruyne really might have been better to listen to Silver – though one never knows for sure about woulds and ifs. And I love how, in their love, they work through the situation about the laws and rules, and Ruyne is willing to do something untraditional, but the way it is built to is very naturally built. And they still have to work through Ruyne’s need to have a child and the woman he chooses and the mess that comes of that, but Silver absolutely bonds to his daughter, Truyna, as if she were his own.
Then there’s Shadow and Derry. Shadow is much more overt and active, but Derry loves Shadow just as much as Shadow loves Derry, and when Shadow Song-Binds to Derry, he’s happy with him. They are so sweet together, but then a strange unknown monster kills Derry’s parents. Shadow swears to protect Derry, as the whole band is thrust into turmoil, and it’s so sweet how protective of Derry Shadow is, but in the end he can’t protect him. And Derry is stripped of his Song-Binding to Shadow (or most of it) and possessed by the monster. And Shadow almost dies from the shock and loss. He eventually recovers, and Ruyne and the band want him to say with them, and forget Derry, who Silver says is dead, but Shadow learns – knows – he is not really quite so dead as all that. And Shadow wants the others to go back with him.
“The monster killed him, Shadow. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it,” Silver whispered, staring at the floor.
“You’re lying,” Shadow hissed, as he glared at Silver.
“Shadow!” Ruyne said harshly, crossing his arms. “Silver has no reason to lie.”
Shadow held up the necklace to show them. “This is Derry’s. I gave it to him. He never took it off.”
Unfortunately, I have to share all this for other things to make sense. It is so much better in the book! But I ached and burned for Shadow not to abandon Derry, and when Shadow finally leaves in the middle of night to look for Derry, it was everything I could have wanted. Yes! And it was so good how Shadow’s thoughts and feelings have all the depth and various considerations of reality – even for a moment considering he ought to adapt and leave Derry behind.
And then Shadow goes through so much, from the loss of his Song to wounds and slavery. I really wish we had gotten to see the same depth we get everywhere else here, instead of just having it summarized. Even the summary rings with so much depth, with so much pain and dedication and reality, I really wanted to read about Shadow’s thoughts, experiences, feelings, whatever there was there, all of it! It means so much! I realized that this was why, even after I finished the book, I kept on going back to it, looking for the missing part of the story. Fortunately, it looks like the author may write it as a short story for her blog subscribers to read free!
When Shadow finally meets Derry again, it is so good and so wonderful! And so sweet!
Their reunion was one that only two desperately in love who had been separated by pain and distance could experience. After their passion was spent, Derry lay with his head on Shadow’s chest, gently tracing each of Shadow’s tattoos, as though committing them to memory. Frowning when he found a scar. His hand rested over the large scar over Shadow’s heart. “You’ve been through much to find me.”
And Shadow’s words:
Shadow’s heart clenched. “What? Of course, I’m staying. That was the point of finding you! I left the Band for you.” He grabbed Derry’s chin so he could look into Derry’s eyes, searching them.
There’s so much more. Shadow finds Ruyne and the Band and together they try to save Derry. And there was a fight once or twice between Ruyne and Silver, but they get through it, and I don’t know what to say.
Because the monster is Travain, who did not die quite normally, and is now a monstrous blight with an amazing amount of power, who has grown more evil and depraved, no longer human at all, under the curse of the Siren Queen.
There was so much I really, really liked about it. I liked Ruyne’s realization that his mother’s last advice was for him and his friends to stay together, and maybe getting separated from them was his one true failure or mistake.
Ruyne and Silver
Ruyne turned to Silver, hesitating. “You don’t have to come, Silver.”
Silver shook his head and took Ruyne’s hand. “My place is at your side, always, Leader.” He gave Ruyne as reassuring a smile as he could and tried to harmonize his Song magic with Ruyne’s to steady them both.
More of Ruyne and Silver
Ruyne thought back to their battles with Travain for Derry. Truyna had forced Derry’s will out of the body like a spirit. He thought about how Shadow had moved and killed in battle. “Only the dead go to the sea,” Ruyne repeated in a murmur.
“Then Shadow is leading us to join him. Why?” Silver slipped his arm through Ruyne’s, clinging to him.
Ruyne looked up at the blinding sky. Angry wisps of cloud offered no respite from the burning sunlight. “Because our world is ending, Silver.”
Shadow to Ruyne (one of my favourites):
Shadow reached over to rest his hand on Ruyne’s shoulder. “You didn’t fail anyone. You’re the Leader thaat will save us all. I believe in you. Yes, Derry has physically died, like I have. Silver was not wrong when he said the monster killed Derry so long ago. But we live still, don’t you see? All the Dusksingers that have passed before us wait beneath the sea just like the legends say. They’re not dead or gone. They live in a different way.”
“Derry doesn’t know yet,” Ruyne observed as he crossed his arms.
And the last scene is such a beautiful, fairy tale ending. I liked it so much.
“The world will sort itself out. Until it does, you will be safe beneath the waves, my children. Let us go home,” the Queen declared, then dove beneath the waves with them in her protective grasp.
But probably my favourite thing is how much Shadow will go through for Derry … how much love there is between the characters. The important thing is how you love. How Shadow never abandons Derry.
But one last quote! Another of my favourites (since anyone who knows me knows I never have favourites):
Finally, the voice spoke again, “Do you know what you ask, Leader Ruyne? Is this one member of your Band worth any cost?
Ruyne closed his eyes. Any cost? He didn’t know what she was alluding to. “Yes, Goddess. We do not leave any of our Band behind. We cannot let this evil continue in his form.”
“Even if it costs you the rest of your Band?” The voice scoffed.
“Each of us would gladly pay with our lives to free him,” Bronze’s voice rang out strongly behind Ruyne as he and the rest of the Band walked up.
I have to stop myself here! It’s much better with all the context, but here’s a glimpse of what I loved in Cursed Song.