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A solid but slightly disappointing finale - Contains Spoilers
on 3 October 2008
The three earlier books in this series are amongst the best fantasy novels I've ever read. Unfortunately, 'The Singing' is not, in my opinion, nearly so good. 'The Riddle', for instance, is a thrilling book from start to finish. It's shocking and visceral - the sort of book that has you anxious for the safety of its characters throughout. The problem, for me, with 'The Singing' is that it has nothing close to that excitement. In fact, it has very little tension, very few if any surprises, and most importantly didn't demand an engagement with its characters from this reader in the way 'The Riddle' demanded you sat up straight and paid attention.
Maered is so powerful in this book I didn't fear for her in the slightest. The amoral'elemental' potential towards evil at the root of her character (introduced in 'The Riddle') was really the aspect of her that would, considering her powers, make her interesting - again, I felt this aspect of her was just hinted at, and again, failed to generate tension or complexity in this novel. All the set pieces are anti-climaxes - neither the Landrost nor the Nameless One are seen, the battles with them are 'psychological'. The overall effect is woolly and unaffecting. Hem's story, perhaps surprisingly, (though 'The Crow' was excellent too!) has more tension and a sense of things being at stake - the scene where Hem fights for Saliman's life is the most powerful in the book. It's a terrible shame I feel because it was just the most brilliant series. My suspicion is that Alison Croggon wanted to provide a timely portrait of a world beset by war and environmental crisis, but the emphasis on flooded landscapes and wartorn communities alongside a slow paced, very 'psychological' novel produced, for me, a very muted, anticlimactic conclusion to this series.