{Review} CHANTRESS by Amy Butler Greenfield

B O O K   T R A I L E R:

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   I WAS DIGGING IN THE GARDEN WHEN I heard it: a strange, wild singing on the wind.
   I sat back on my heels, a carrot dropping from my mud-splattered hands.
   No one sang here. Not on this island.
   Perhaps I'd misheard-- 
   No, there it was again: a lilting line, distant but clear. It lasted hardly longer than a heartbeat, but it left me certain of one thing: It was more than a gull's cry I'd heard. It was a song.
   But who was singing it?
   I glanced over my shoulder at Norrie, hunched over a cabbage bed, a gray frizzle poking out from under her linen cap. As far as I  knew, she was the only other inhabitant of this lonely Atlantic island, but it couldn't have been Norrie I had heard. For if there was one rule that my guardian set above all others, it was this one: There must be no singing. Ever.
   Sing and the darkness will find you.

(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

R E V I E W:

I've been anxiously awaiting CHANTRESS since reading the book's unusual, intriguing summary. It sounded like something that could have been influenced by Greek mythology, yet it was also original. And it involved singing. I would like to see more fantasy novels where singing is considered magical art in and of itself. I never had time to read the title, though, and it fell down my TBR list. I was recently lucky enough to take part in Lena Goldfinch's Blog Tour for her new novel SONGSTONE. I reviewed the book and interviewed the author. This book also revolves around the magical elements of song in a fantasy world, albeit in completely different ways. Even so, it re-inspired me to read CHANTRESS, and I'm glad I finally have the chance to talk about it.

In a world where chantresses are feared and persecuted, one managed to escape. She stowed her young daughter away on a deserted island before she herself was murdered. That daughter, Lucy, has grown up unaware of the ability stowed away within her. She lives alone with Norrie and knows only that singing is forbidden. She comes of age without being told the terrible truth about her heritage, and accidentally sings on All Hallow's Eve, breaking the spell  her mother cast and propelling both herself and Norrie to their homeland of England. The only problem? The Lord Protector is high on power and knows that only a chantress can reverse the dark magic he wields. He's mandated that all chantresses must be brought before him...where they are then executed. Lucy goes into hiding with a circle that calls itself The Invisible College is bent on finding a way to bring Lord Scargrave down and give his power to young King Henry the Ninth before London is destroyed. Lucy's newfound abilities as a Chantress are the best chance they have. Lucy only has six months to learn skills that she should have been learning her entire life. If she can't learn to focus and control her songs, she has the power to sing a song of destruction that will bring England to its knees...but if she pulls it off, she'll save everyone.

I didn't realize that CHANTRESS was historical fantasy until I was reading the novel. It added to the appeal, however, and never felt forced. Instead, the time period was completely suitable and added an additional layer to the story. I find that more and more historical fantasy novels are making their way into YA, which is always a welcome addition. The tides seem to be turning in that direction when it comes to fantasy with recent entries like GRAVE MERCY and DARK TRIUMPH by Robin LaFevers and CHANGELING by Philippa Gregory.

Those readers looking for an epic romance novel will be disappointed, while the ones who want a book more focused on the story will rejoice. There's a little romance, but much later on, and I expect it to be more of a focus in future titles. Greenfield chooses to focus on developing Lucy and preparing her for a meeting with destiny, as well as creating a backstory of the persecution of all Chantresses. She builds a state of array for London and features citizens longing to break free of the horror of Lord Scargrave and his Shadowgrims

CHANTRESS is certainly an ambitious novel. The scope of a Chantress is vast and intriguing. At times, there's a lot of info-dumping that can be hard to wade through, creating more Tell than Show. The sequence where Lucy begins studying how to properly be a Chantress leans tedious. At the same time, future books will likely be more focused on action since we already know all of this information. While CHANTRESS ends cleanly and can stand completely on its own, there are two more books to come. Those looking for a book that doesn't have any sequels can read this and feel satisfied, but those wanting more will be happy as well. Greenfield has achieved a good balance here, and it will be interesting to see where she takes Lucy in future books.

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Aside from the fact that this cover is very pink (I'm not a fan of pink to begin with, let alone that shade), I rather like it. I have a thing for hooded characters, and I don't know why. But put a model in a hood and splash it on a book cover? I'm immediately going to pick it up to see what it's about!

I'm also a fan of the way you understand the cover better once you start reading CHANTRESS. I wasn't sure exactly what the model was holding before I began reading, but now I get it...and it's important!

Pink aside, I really like the design of the title, and the way it's branching out. I like more unique typography selections on book covers! Plus, that same title is less glaringly pink in person, because it's made with foil, which is eye-catching in and of itself! The image itself is also darker and more muted in person in a way you can't see from a computer screen!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books / Simon and Schuster
Received: Purchased

Lucy’s Chantress magic will make her the most powerful—and most hunted—girl in England. 

“Sing, and the darkness will find you.” This warning has haunted fifteen-year-old Lucy ever since she was eight and shipwrecked on a lonely island. Lucy’s guardian, Norrie, has lots of rules, but the most important is that Lucy must never sing. Not ever. Now it is 1667, Lucy is fifteen, and on All Hallows’ Eve, Lucy hears a tantalizing melody on the wind. She can’t help but sing—and she is swept into darkness. 

When she awakes in England, Lucy hears powerful men discussing Chantresses—women who can sing magic into the world. They are hunting her, but she escapes and finds sanctuary with the Invisible College, an organization plotting to overthrow the nefarious Lord Protector. The only person powerful enough to bring about his downfall is a Chantress. And Lucy is the last one in England. 

Lucy struggles to master the song-spells and harness her power, but the Lord Protector is moving quickly. And her feelings for Nat, an Invisible College apprentice and scientist who deeply distrusts her magic, only add to her confusion... 

Time is running out, and the fate of England hangs in the balance in this entrancing novel that is atmospheric and lyrical, dangerous and romantic.