Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
Genre: YA, historical, paranormal
Publication Date: May 7, 2013 (S&S – North America)
Source: Edelweiss Review Copy
Summary: 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.
☆: 4/5 stars – a really great debut for what’s shaping up to be an awesome new trilogy!
Review: This is such a breath of fresh air within the realms of witchery within YA. I’m automatically in if there are witches, but doubly in if there’s music involved. Put the two together, and you basically have me buying your book. And while “Chantress” was awesome, I think it needed one more good smooth edit before getting to the ARC stage of things. I’m hoping that some of the things that got me slowed down got fixed before publication. Other than that? If you’re looking for something deliciously new and enchanting within YA paranormal witchery, look no further – “Chantress” is your book.
What needed work: the external worldbuilding. While we do get a great sense of the island within the opening chapters of the book, once we get to London, it feels like Greenfield really pared things down to the point of being bare-bones about what London at that time might have felt like. When she did show us that London, it was breathtaking, and she obviously has some serious talent with sensory language when she wanted to use it. But I wanted more showing and less telling, even if there were some situations where it couldn’t be used very much within the book. However, the internal worldbuilding, the paranoia brought on by Scargrave and the Shadowgrims was nothing short of excellent. You had the feeling that even you as the reader might be caught at any time, and I really enjoyed that. When authors manage to do both external and internal worldbuilding somewhat successfully, I’m impressed, and that’s the case here. The external bit was just the one that needed more work out of the two.
What was good: the basic plot and the characters. While I do feel like the characters in general needed a bit more complication and expansion (especially Scargrave and Lucy – as an MC, she didn’t feel quite complicated enough), the building was good enough combined with the world and the plot to propel the novel to the last page. I really couldn’t stop reading – it was that good. But it could have been better. Since this looks like it’s the first in a trilogy, I’m hoping that these matters will get addressed and we’ll get more on Lucy and the rest of the Chantresses and their histories in future books, as well as deeper antagonists. At weighing in at a little over 300 pages, this book could have been longer with more depth to all of the technical areas in general (except sensory language – that, frankly, was spectacular) without losing any real motion or tension within the story as a whole.
I did love the dynamic between Lucy and Nat – there was no insta-love, and that was such a relief. There was also no love triangle, which was a bigger relief. Generally, all of the character relationships were well done (though I wanted more between Lucy and her godmother – that entire part of the book felt more than a bit rushed), and it’s obvious that Greenfield has no problem using relationship web school of worldbuilding when she’s not using the actual traditional sensory language and imagery method. Which worked in this book, though I did want more of a better balance between the two.
Now finally, to the sensory language. The Shadowgrims, the Feeding Pit – everything having to do with Scargrave, the magic, and the grimoire gave me the chills. In a good way. I seriously can’t wait to read book two based on those plot points alone, because in those areas, Greenfield definitely knows how to deliver. And the idea of singing one’s magic, and the difference between Proven Magic (which was a nice tip of the hat to alchemy) and Wild Magic was really, really great. I wanted more of that, and I hope we definitely get more with the history of chantress magic within book two. What we were given here was good, but it definitely needs to be expanded if there are going to be more adventures with Lucy and company. Anytime magic was used, it was almost a visceral feeling (especially with the state of Lucy’s throat if she had to sing for a long time), and I love it when authors can cause that kind of response in a reader like me.
Final verdict? While this could have been cleaned up (and hope it was) before publication, this is definitely a great debut effort and deserves the read. Because of those points that needed editing, it just misses my best of 2013 list by just a hair, but is still a really fun and exciting read. “Chantress” is out now from Simon & Schuster in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance. I seriously can’t wait until book two!