Book Review: “The Singing” by Alison Croggon

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The Singing
by Alison Croggon


The fourth Book of Pellinor concludes the series that purports to be a translation of the epic “Naraudh Lar-Chanë,” left behind by the long-extinct civilization of the lost continent of Edil-Amarandh. If you haven’t already heard of the previous books The Naming, The Riddle and The Crow, you might be surprised when I say this series could rival The Lord of the Rings as an achievement in language arts, mythic storytelling, and pure entertainment.

Young bards Maerad and her brother Hem have been separated both by geography and by the first tremors of a war that could shake their world to its foundations. But now that each of them possesses half of the Treesong — an artifact beyond the magic of all bards that could either heal or destroy all that they know — each of the siblings feels drawn to seek the other. Their meeting is bound to be eventful, for Maerad is the “chosen one,” who alone can destroy the Nameless One and halt his spreading darkness. Plus, both siblings are touched by Elemental blood, a bond with beings whose power for good and ill is terrifying even to the magically gifted bards.

This, then, is what you need to know before you read how Hem attempts to save his friend Saliman from a plague called the White Sickness. This knowledge will prepare you to stand on the battlements of Innail with Maerad as she risks total obliteration to fight off a being so mighty that it can scarcely be distinguished from the mountain that shares its name. Maerad grows so powerful that she becomes a legend in her own lifetime. How strange it is when this slip of a girl hears her own heroic deeds being sung by the bards! And yet her power is frightening, even to those nearest and dearest to her, so that the final stretches of her long quest are an ordeal of painful loneliness.

The suspense does not stop building when brother and sister come together. For even then it is neither the time nor the place to heal the broken song. To do that, they must journey into the bleakest heart of a country that is now seized in the throes of a total, all-consuming war. And Maerad must figure out the mystery of her own heart in time to set it against the will of the Nameless One in a duel between good and evil to rival Frodo vs. the Ring.

This is a book full of love and sadness, friendship and betrayal, courage and danger, tension and thrills. It features an acting troupe, a clever bird, a city desperately besieged, a devastating flood, a bit of time travel, a pair of tender love stories, and a truly moving act of friendship. It has poetry and music, a bit of nature mysticism (occult-content advisory!), and some pretty grim carnage. It has an admirable young hero and an imperfect young heroine who will challenge the reader to think and to feel outside his or her comfort zone. And it has one of those lickety-split epilogues that leaves you rubbing your eyes and wondering how a novel in four thick volumes can feel like it’s ending too soon!