Last Song Before Night

By Ilana C Meyer

This one took me a long time to read. I went into it based on a friend’s recommendation, not really thinking the cover drew me in….and found out its an emotionally lush, richly woven world and story in the vein of Guy Gavriel Kay, Patrick Rothfuss or Melina Marchetta. So I had to slow down and appreciate not only the descriptive and evocative writing of the locations, but also to fully appreciate the emotional ramification of what was happening to each of the main characters.

And I was surprised. Which is unusual in fantasy, I’ve read a lot and I know the tropes. But here Myer surprised me in a totally true-to-character way by several of her main POV characters choosing difficult paths that caused lots of juicy angst. People don’t end up necessarily being who you think they’ll be, or loving those they start out with. Delicious.

This is an ensemble cast novel, begun with a pair of Poets (kind of like wandering Bards in this world) who are traveling to a city for a contest to be named greatest Poet in the land by the very powerful King’s Poet, Nickon Gerrard. Both are handsome, talented, hero material: but in disposition they are the moon and the sun. You can kind of guess what’s going to happen there, can’t you?

And there’s also a girl heading towards the same contest…except there are no female poets. And there is the daughter of a rich merchant being courted by a nobleman.

All the characters will be thrust from their usual lives and assumed futures as the contest ends exile, bloodshed, and danger to the entire kingdom because someone is using blood divination magic.

This is lovely, lyrical, darkening alternate world fantasy. And I readily fell in love with the characters. The ending of the book felt rushed, I won’t lie. I might have been tempted to only give 4.5 stars because it gets mighty confusing due to the author’s penchant for switching POV without telling you who’s the voice at the start of the chapter as well as whether this is happening real time or in Poet magic time and where it is happening in the timeline of the story.

In the end, I didn’t actually care enough to change my stars. It’s so rare (like not since discovering Melina Marchetta, actually) that a fantasy novel has sung to me like this. Beautiful. Luckily, it looks like the author has another book coming out next year set in the same world. Awesome.