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SONGSTONE centers around Kita, a girl with no past or family. She was discovered in the forest as an infant, filthy and alone. When she was taken in by a village family and cleaned up, it was discovered that the grime had been hiding pale white skin and fuzzy red hair. Kita greatly resembled a Huwi baby, an enemy. She's never embraced, and grows up feared by others in the village. When she was eight, Matiko, the village medicine man took her in. Unbeknownst to the villagers, he practices dark, evil magic. He steals blood from Kita every day of her life, and lately, more than one drop. When a journeyman named
Pono comes to the village looking for a storyteller to bring back to his village. Kita's been keeping an important secret from Matiko: her ability to meld song into stone and record history. She's desperate to escape Matiko's clutches and leave with Pono, but doing so means risking everything. How far will Kita go to escape from Matiko's clutches and live freely?
There are so many great themes in SONGSTONE. The search for one's identity is a big one. Kita has been kept in the dark about who she is her entire life, and everything changes when her questions are finally answered. Kita grew up thinking she was worthless, and must overcome the harsh words that have broken her in order to become a stronger woman. Her road to discovery is treacherous and painful, but also releases strength she never knew she possessed. The unique types of magic used here have traces of both the familiar and the new in them. Goldfinch was inspired by the folklore of New Zealand's Māori people, and the book has a very tribal feel to it. It brings witch doctors and island life to mind, flavored with traditional lore.
In today's author interview, Goldfinch mentioned that she came up with the concept of melding song into stone with the advent of e-books and the war between digital and print media. She states that "stories are stories are stories, no matter how we receive them," and created the concept behind SONGSTONE. It adds an extra layer of history to the piece, reminiscent of the days when there was no written language, only the tradition of oral storytellers and the way history used to be passed down. I really appreciated this element and thought it added to the atmosphere of SONGSTONE, even though there could have been so much more done with the element.
One of the great things about SONGSTONE is the fact that it's a beautiful stand-alone novel, not part of any sort of series. I would love to visit the world again in the future, perhaps through companion novels in a vein similar to beloved authors Juliet Marillier and Zoë Marriott. I'm not ready to leave this world and explore all the rich texture that makes everything so interesting and unique. But at the same time, I finished reading with satisfaction over the closure of it all, which can be hard to do these days. If you're a fan of high fantasy and want something new and interesting, SONGSTONE is worth putting on your TBR list. I'm eager to see what else Goldfinch has to offer!