Review: Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable

I read this YA book to preview it for my high school students. This was a good read–I would definitely recommend to students. Constable’s descriptions are not so heavy as to weigh down the story, but they are enough to allow readers to paint their own pictures. Even though the chapters are long (in terms of number of pages), they fly by. The style/reading level is not overly challenging so as to discourage an adolescent reader; neither is it too simply to bore an advanced reader.

I enjoyed the premise: Calwyn is clinging to the old world of magic–a series of chantments that can control various aspects of nature and people. Most citizens of her world are distrustful of those who can sing these spells, even though the singers are simply misunderstood. Interwoven through this fantastical story were snippets of wisdom that can be applied to our own “non-magical” lives–observations on the nature of life and death, ambition and acceptance. These musings can serve as philosophical diving boards for more advanced readers to delve deeper into the text, drawing parallels between Calwyn’s world and their own. In short, the novel follows the typical archetypal journey with enough twists so that it doesn’t disappoint.

Specifics for students/young readers: The protagonist is female, which might be a turn-off to some of my male students, but the story contains enough action that male adolescent readers might be able to forget about the fact that the story is told through a female’s eyes. The third person point of view, I believe, will help make Calwyn’s story more palatable to male readers. Even when the action stops, there is enough interaction between characters to keep things interesting. For example, there is some subtle “love tension” between protagonist Calwyn and her male companion, Darrow, as well as some aggression between and among characters. Those interested will pick up on the subtleties of the characters’ relationships. Those uninterested can easily ignore them, following the action of the plot.

Specifics for adult readers: This book is meant for young adults. As such, the reading level will not be a challenge for adults, but the book will be a quick read. As an adult reading this book, I craved more layers of development, but the world Constable created was an interesting concept to consider. I did enjoy the more philosophical musings (that appeared more towards the end of the novel), as I could easily draw connections to our modern world in terms of power, balance, and the place of an individual within society.

Specifics for writers: From a writer’s point of view, I enjoyed picking apart how Constable was able to tell a complicated story in a concise way. She added just the right level of details to interest her target age group without burdening them with excess description or information. She really trusted her readers to fill in the gaps with their imaginations.

Overall, I would recommend this book. There are two more in the series, which I intend to read.

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