Title: LAST SONG BEFORE NIGHT
Author: Ilana C. Myer
Pub. Date: September 29, 2015
Formats: Hardcover & eBook
About the Book
Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings—a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.
On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression—from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar’s connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.
The Red Death’s return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld—a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.
I love this book. I want you to know that now, because I am going to discuss the synopsis, and some of what I have to say is about how the synopsis is not adequate in describing the novel. And that’s okay. There isn’t room for a 1,000 word synopsis on the back of the book.
The synopsis to this novel is a little bit misleading, but generally accurate. (That line’s a publisher blurb for a book jacket if I’ve ever seen one. Call me up, I can write these all day). This book is pretty much all of the things noted in the synopsis above, certainly, but it is broader in scope than the blurb suggests.
It is about Lin, a “musician and lyricist of uncommon ability,” though the issue isn’t technically that women are forbidden to use music; women are de facto disallowed from being Poets and musicians, cut-off from the choice by societal norms, rather than by the law de jure. I think this says a lot more about the society than that it is “illegal” for women to use music. This is a cultural, societal, top-down discrimination. A poet runs the world, but even poets are censored and living half-lives. Play a song that hasn’t been approved? You might end up dead.
The novel is also very much about the characters glossed over in the synopsis with the quick phrase “and several others”. There are multiple limited third-person perspectives; we are looking not just over Lin’s shoulder, but over the shoulders of several other young, creative characters. These other characters have much to lose and are significant to the story line: Rianna, a young, sheltered, driven gentlewoman who acts in some ways as a foil to Lin, who dreams of running away with the poet Darien; Darien, a young Poet, privileged, talented, goodhearted and in love with Rianna; Marlen, musical partner to Darien, a dark soul, sardonic–the moon to Darien’s sun, in more ways than one. There are a few other characters with their own limited POV segments, but these are the primary POVs. And each of these characters are worthy of discussion.
In this book, you will find many elements that make fantasy appealing: you will find a quest given by a master of the field; you will find brave heroines and heroes, sometimes disguised; you will find reprehensible, conniving villains; you will find shared, prophetic dreams; you will find that many characters are untrustworthy. There are blood-rites, coercion magic, familial abuse, music, and secrets. Many, many secrets.
Last Song Before Night is lyrical. The flow and pacing are impeccable. The characters are fully realized–ugly and beautiful and ordinary in turn–and completely unique from one another. The world is intriguing and complete with a real-but-lightly-sketched historic breadth; though our glimpse of the world is limited, small, intimate, and there is much yet to be revealed. The stakes are critical to a huge population.
By making magic interconnected to music (the magic-users are poets and bards) in the world of Last Song Before Night, Myer is able to aptly have a few big discussions at the same time.
Is music a sort of magic? Let’s make that not just music, but art as well. Is art magic? If it is, then does censorship–of music, art, poetry, fiction–mean the reduction of magic in our world? What happens to a society when we take away the magic of art? Maybe art is allowed, but people can only paint certain pictures. They can only perform certain songs. Does “art by numbers” still have a magic in it? If we stifle the creative process, does it destroy the magic?
This novel is beautifully written and complete on its own. Myer spent seven years on the book, and it shows in the loving, cautious way the words have been chosen. I know she has planned two other books in this world, and if she asks me if I would like to read them, I’ll tell her, “Yes, please.”
About the Author
Ilana C. Myer has written for the Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Previously she was a freelance journalist in Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Daily Forward, Time Out Israel and other publications. She lives in New York City.
Ilana was born in New York but grew up in Jerusalem, Israel, where she spent her teen years haunting secondhand bookstores in search of books written in English—especially fantasy. It was in one of these shops that she discovered David Eddings and realized that epic fantasy continued after Tolkien, and from there went on to make such marvelous discoveries as Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, and Guy Gavriel Kay.
Since learning to read, Ilana had decided she would write books, but during college in New York City was confronted with the reality of making rent, and worked as a receptionist, administrative assistant, and executive assistant where she on occasion picked up dry cleaning. She afterwards found more fulfillment as a journalist in Jerusalem where she covered social issues, the arts, and innovations in technology, and co-founded the Middle East environment blog, Green Prophet. It was during these years in Jerusalem, on stolen time, that Last Song Before Night took shape.
She writes as Ilana Teitelbaum for various outlets, but decided early on—since the days of haunting bookstores, in fact—that “Teitelbaum” was too long for a book cover. “Myer” is a variation on the maiden name of her grandmother, whose family was exterminated in Germany. It is a family with a long history of writers, so it seems appropriate to give credit—or blame—where it’s due.
3 winners will receive a finished copy of LAST SONG BEFORE NIGHT. US Only.
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