Last Song Before Night, Ilana C Myer, TOR Books, 2015, 415 pp
Summary from Goodreads: Long ago, poets were Seers with access to powerful magic. Following a cataclysmic battle, the enchantments of Eivar were lost–now a song is only words and music, and no more. But when a dark power threatens the land, poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a task much greater: to restore the lost enchantments to the world. And the road to the Otherworld, where the enchantments reside, will imperil their lives and test the deepest desires of their hearts.
This is a debut fantasy novel for adults and I was drawn to it because the central characters are poets and songwriters. One of these is a young woman passing as a male, because women are forbidden to follow the call of that muse.
Sure enough, Lin turns out to be the heroine of the tale and is the most fully realized character, though her fellow poets and musicians are each interesting in their own ways.
Eivar is an invented land with rich merchants and an evil Court Poet who has a strange hold over the King. The story opens as the annual festival of arts and music is about to begin. Poets will complete for the Silver Branch, an award that opens doors at court for the winner.
The country has a glorious past, a Golden Age, when poets and magic flourished, but this past is hidden and almost forgotten due to secret practices that had unleashed a plague. Called The Red Death, it appears to be returning.
The world building and description are wonderful but the plot is convoluted to the point of being hard to follow. Though the characters are all complex and their motives made clear, they never quite came alive for me.
I enjoyed the ideas behind the story and the ventures into magic and lore. That is what kept me reading. But I did not love the novel because it failed to move me emotionally. I think Ilana Myer has much potential though and I would read her next book.
(Last Song Before Night is available in hardcover by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)