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4.5 out of 5 stars
Song Quest
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on 12 January 2014
A gripping story, very original with three strong teenage protagonists. A good mix of light and dark themes

I will read more of this author's work - including the sequel to this story
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I feel like I should announce my bias towards this, as it's one I've loved since I first read it (probably about 14 years ago) and I've tried to read it with fresh eyes, but I know part of me is just loving revisiting that world that enchanted me so much as a child.

That said, I'm just going to gush and say I adored it all over again.

The fantasy world that Roberts introduces you to is well developed and just beautiful. Blue haired Singers who use magical songs? Check. Playful but abused fantasy creatures? Check. Creepy priests and warriors with bones in their hair? Check.

Apparently that's all I need for a good fantasy story.

Well, not all I need. I love the dual point of view, and how different they are. Rialle has always been my favourite, as the 'good girl' and just the fact that she was a young girl, like me (or not so much like me now!) but this time round I really appreciated Kherron's version of events. A bit of an anti-hero, he manages to fight for the right side in the end, but it doesn't feel like he changes too much as a character - not in a bad way, he just keeps his personality while adjusting his actions.

The relationship between Rialle and Frenn, and Rialle and Singer Toharo are some of my favourites, as are the interactions with the half-creatures. While there might be some romantic undercurrents, it's great to see a book that doesn't revolve around that kind of thing. I find friendships more interesting than romances.

There are so many wonderfully fleshed out characters, I can't go into them all here, but favourites for me include the Khizpriest, our villain who wants to destroy the Singers (and gives me the chills), and Lord Javelly, a young lordling who eats half creatures and thinks he can trick the Singers.

The treatment of the half creatures is a really interesting issue. When Rialle is horrified at people eating merlee eggs, I am too, and think it's awful to eat thier unborn children, but then I remember I do that to chickens on a weekly basis...interesting (though probably not the place to go into that kind of thing).

This is a fantastic start to a trilogy that introduces a world full of magic and possibilities, and sets the foundations for the next two books, which skip ahead a generation so we see what happens to the Singers and their Isle over a longer period of time (which I love). As a book from my childhood, it brings a lot of nostalgia, but all that aside, I think it's a fantastic fantasy novel that anyone could enjoy.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2010
This is one of those books I really wish I had read when I was younger. As an adult it's a book I really enjoyed but as a child I would have absolutely treasured it.

I love Rialle from the get go. She came across as really caring and sweet, vulnerable yet strong and I really enjoyed spending time with her. I also adored Frenn - he was really kind and obviously cared a great deal for Rialle. I wasn't sure how much I like Kherron in the beginning - but as the story progressed he really started to grow on me.

I liked the dual aspect of the book - getting the story from Rialle and Kherron's point of view. I do think I favoured Rialle as a narrator (possible because I liked her more) but the story definitely benefits from having the two points of view and gives it a appeal to both male and female readers.

The story itself is great - many twist and turns and plenty of action. I found myself holding my breath in parts - either anxious to know what was going to happen or shocked by the turn of events. I found it completely unpredictable and loved that!

I will admit this is a book that is slightly outside my comfort zone. Although I read many books that have fantasy elements in them I'm not usually very good at reading a `straight' fantasy. There is something about all the made up names and places that confuses me. I believe it is testament to Roberts' writing that this wasn't the case here. I found myself so completely immersed in the story that it wasn't a problem at all. I would definitely recommend it for readers who are looking for their first fantasy read.

Overall - Fantastic characters, a wonderful story and lovely writing. Brilliant!
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on 8 May 2015
Loved this book - what a terrific find! One of those books which, like Anne McCaffrey will appeal as much to adults as YA ... Yet I so nearly didn't read it because the title rather put me off. I'm so glad I eventually got round to it because once I'd read the first page of the first chapter I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I won't spoil the plot for you, but simply say - don't let the title put you off: and whether you are boy or girl, you'll still enjoy it - there's no gender preferences! Anyway, I'm off to go buy the next one now!
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on 12 June 2005
i read alot of books but the echorium sequence is my all-time favourite. I sing so i know how important singing is to people. i cried soo much in the books but for no reason at all. i will keep re-reading these books for a long, long time because i love them so much. I really like the way Katherine roberts has created such strong characters. Rialle is soo sweet and innocent, but becomes stronger and a more powerful character. Frenn is a loveable character, he lightens the mood in the book. You want to hate kherron but by the end you fall into loving him. i recomend these books to anyone and everyone.
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on 8 December 2002
Song Quest is a well-written fantasy novel, which appeals to those who enjoy the Harry Potter series, but perhaps feel that they're growing out of it.
On the Isle of Echoes, three young novice Singers are learning new skills in the Echorium. There are five different songs that the Singers learn - one that makes you sleep, laugh, and one that even can cause death.
When Rialle, the best in the class, hears the cry of the merlee half-creatures, she's sent on an amazing quest to protect them. Accompanied by the Second Singer, and her friend Frenn who stows away, she risks danger along the way. Little does she know that Kherron, her enemy at the Echorium, is working for what she's fighting against. Will he end up being a friend or foe?
A very readable story - it takes a while to get into it, but after a slow start, the story really picks up. Amazon recommends this for 10-12 year olds, but I'm 14 and enjoyed it thoroughly.
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on 30 March 2001
Katherine Roberts is one of my favourite writers. She's one of that select brand of authors who have proved their worth by repeatedly winning prizes in the small press, in magazines such as Story Cellar. In 1996, she won the Broadsword Fiction of the Year Award. She also wrote several novels that went unpublished. Like Neal L. Asher and Liz Williams, her hard work has now resulted in a professional publishing contract. 'Song Quest' has continued her long record of success, winning the BRANFORD BOASE AWARD 2000.
I had always considered Katherine Roberts to be a writer for adults. Therefore I was surprised when her first novel turned out to be a book for children. However, 'Song Quest' is such a thrilling, timeless narrative that it doesn't really matter what age you are. Adults quite comfortably tuck into J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, but they should love Katherine Roberts' work more. Quite simply, Katherine Roberts is a far better writer than J.K. Rowling. Her prose is far more stimulating and composed with seemingly effortless skill. It seems to me that by far the most interesting character in the Harry Potter books is Voldemort, quite simply for the fact that he's so evil, and things only start happening when he's around. The characters in Katherine Roberts' 'Song Quest' are far more realistic as human beings, even though they are brought to life in a setting way more fantastic than that of Hogwarts. Rialle and her friends are on the cusp of adolescence, but Katherine Roberts' subtle prose means that much younger readers can also enjoy 'Song Quest'. Harry Potter might also be on the edge of becoming a teenager, but you suspect that he'll never amount to much more than a 'Kevin' (thank you Harry Enfield!).
I suppose that it's inevitable that Katherine Roberts' work should be compared with that of J.K. Rowling. Rowling's fantasy is far more mundane than that of Katherine Roberts'. However, I believe the author with whom Katherine Roberts should most be compared with is C.S. Lewis. The world of the Echorium is every bit as vivid as Narnia. Certainly the illustrations in the book remind me of 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', and Kherron recalls the character of Edmund to me. Yet 'Song Quest' seems far more environmental in tone than C.S. Lewis' biblical prose, and far less 'beastly' than Narnia. There are fantastic creatures in 'Song Quest', such as the Merlee and the Quetzal, around whom much of the action revolves. Yet Katherine Roberts' prose is set to date far better than Lewis' - "beastly" has always sounded quaint and old fashioned to me. Katherine Roberts doesn't need a magical wardrobe to let contemporary children visit her fantastic world - she has created such empathic characters that she doesn't need deus ex machina. Like Tolkien, Katherine Roberts has been able to create her own fantastic universe(s).
Katherine Roberts is also a thrilling writer. 'Song Quest' works almost like a whodunit. Indeed, the very question that Rialle sets out to resolve is: who would dare to hunt the Merlee? These creatures, half human/half fish, can only be heard by the very youngest of the Singers, and then only those most skilled at farlistening. Rialle and her friends are on the brink of becoming full Singers when a shipwreck occurs off the coast of the Echorium. The ambitious Kherron abandons his peers to look for treasure, and finds more than he bargained for. Since she can communicate with the Merlee, Rialle is dispatched with the Second Singer to find out why they are placing the seas in such turmoil. Meanwhile, a stowaway creeps on board the ship of the Singers, the Wavesong. What follows is a most harmonious fiction. Are Merlee the only prey of the vicious hunters? The answer's to be found in Silvertown.
There are some pleasantly nasty and chilling aspects to 'Song Quest' that should make its narrative unforgettable. Katherine Roberts is not afraid of getting her characters' hands dirty. There's also a pleasing moral ambiguity about her creations that make them most human. In Katherine Roberts' short story 'Death Singer', the Echorium was a place of evil, after all... As the old saying goes, children of all ages will love 'Song Quest'. I'm really glad that Katherine Roberts is such a prolific writer too, since more of her fiction is on its way. An adult edition of 'Song Quest' would also be a welcome sight.
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on 11 September 2004
I first read this book a few years ago and only recently discovered the sequels, so re-read it and it was even better the second time round. Katherine Roberts takes you on a mythical tour of a brand new world, so cleverly constructed that you can't help but be drawn into it and imagine it to be real in every detail. The descriptions are so amazing that everyting seems almost real and you forget you're still in this reality! The characters are brilliant, you really care for them and want them to succeed (and luckily they come up in the sequels so you find out what they're like when they're older too). The storyline is very fascinating, and though it does take a little while to get going, once it does you can't put it down as your so desperate to find out what happens. Everything is woven together so well that it all falls into place perfectly and it's almost as if the world is real. There are also very good messages in the story about respect and mistreating other people or creatures who are different, which only helps add to the good versus evil storyline. It is about three singers, Kherron, Rialle and Frenn and they're adventures as they travel to the mysterious karchland and face the evil awaiting them there which threatens to destroy their home, the beautiful Echorium where they learn songs to help them protect the world. Rialle and Frenn travel with the powerful Second Singer, whereas Kherron travels as a runaway after he escapes the Isle of Echoes where the Echorium is. If it sounds like too much of a kids story, fear not - I'm twenty and loved every minute of it! A MUST READ
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on 5 November 2001
I was enthralled reading this. What a delightful book. It is written in a similar vein to the Anne McCaffrey "Chronicles of Pern" although I found Song Quest lighter and it was much easier to follow the different characters. It was uplifting, while at the same time, made you angry with ignorant humans and how they harm the world around them, intentionally or not. I will be looking to read more of Katherine Roberts' writings.
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on 23 May 2004
Song Quest is the best book I have ever read and to make it even better I bought it through amazon!!! This book is a great fairy tale of different types of mysterious creatures who lurk around. I would recomend this to any and everyone because its great!!! Plus there are some very good feartures of singers!!
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