Review: Witch Song by Amber Argyle

Amber Argyle's website here // $11.45 from {amazon}
Publisher: Rhemalda Publishing (September 1, 2011)
Paperback: 325 pages
Source: Author (given away as part of TFFOS)



The world is changing. Once, Witch Song controlled everything from the winds to the shifting of the seasons-but not anymore. All the Witches are gone, taken captive by a traitor. All but Brusenna. As the echo of their songs fades, the traitor grows stronger. Now she is coming for Brusenna. Her guardian has sworn to protect her, but even he can't stop the Dark Witch. Somehow, Brusenna has to succeed where every other Witch has failed. Find the traitor. Fight her. Defeat her. Because if Brusenna doesn't, there won't be anything left to save.

My Thoughts: 

WITCH SONG's cover does not lie. The soft colors, shadowy branches, unnaturally gold eyes, and glowing necklace practically scream "HARDCORE FANTASY." So, as a self-declared, self-respecting fantasy enthusiast, I had to try it. And I did. Fortunately, WITCH SONG met my usual requirements for an enjoyable read, but only after I was 90% blown away by the "type" of fantasy novel it proved to be.

[aside] When I think fantasy, I think of two "types:" young adult vs. children's. Some may simply call them age groups, and I usually would, but when encountering fantasy novels, I automatically group them into two categories based on characteristics, which I believe then correspond to the age groups. If they don't correspond... I'm probably still sticking with my YA and children's labels because that's how my mind prefers to deal with life. You don't need to convert to Jenn-ism, but hopefully that explanation is enough preface for the rest of my review and will placate anyone with the inclination to point out how erroneous my categorizations are -- which I'll admit is quite, quite possible. *flails at any type of classification* //end aside

The "type" I expected was what I'd generally classify as YA: Maria V Snyder's Study series, BRIGHTLY WOVEN by Alexandra Bracken, MISTWOOD by Leah Cypess, etc. Novels full of fast-paced action, budding romance, and strong characterization as opposed to children's fantasy, the novels with more emphasis on detailed world-building and epic quests. These characteristics aren't mutually exclusive by any means, but I when reading children's fantasy, I most noticeably feel more distanced from the characters, etc. with the epic-like quality and often third-person narrative.

As you may have by now deduced (or not; subtlety is my middle name, right after dragonslayer and hobgobbit), WITCH SONG fell into my children's fantasy category. It's not a bad thing per se, but it's why I felt the urge to explain my fantasy categorization system. Because if you're looking for a breezy fantasy romance, WITCH SONG is not the book for you. (And, yes, perhaps I should have deduced that from the cover.)

It's like comparing all the mystical, CG-decked wizardry in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to the quiet, traditional, and oh-so-EPIC magic of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. Of equal merit but totally, irrefutably different. Like comparing a muggle-born to a pure blood.


At this point, I think a /nice/ demand like "GET ON WITH THE REVIEW ALREADY" is perfectly warranted. But I feel the need to spend so much time just defining WITCH SONG because that, in turn, defined my reading experience. Going in, my romance-y stroll expectations dragged the long narratives and elaborate descriptions to the brink of boredom. I'll admit it: I had to pick up and put down this book three or four times before I got past page 100 or so. Looking back, just imagine a really, really long preface.

Once that preface was over, about a year later in story-time, the real action started. And once the pace decided to pick up, it remained up. The witch song concept is intriguing, rhyme-y, and creative*, and after all the back story, it was exciting to see how applicable Brusenna's talents were in combat. More of her witch talents were periodically revealed as Senna and her trusty sidekick/obvious lover Joshen journeyed to defeat the Dark Witch in Amber Argyle's beautiful, rich world. Eventually, the detailed customs and physical observations that exasperated me in the beginning began to draw me in as I embraced WITCH SONG's high fantasy, epic quest feel.

While WITCH SONG certainly doesn't suffer in the fantasy category, better characterization and perhaps more climax-building would have promoted it from a solid good to a great. I can't exactly complain about Senna or Joshen, but they're also not very relateable. They're simply too extreme. Not crazy-extreme, but extreme in that they seem to have fixed, defining purposes that are taken to a hard-to-believe and, thus, unrelateable extent. In Senna's case, we all know that she's off to defeat the Dark Witch. In her pursuit of this goal, she's always about sacrifice and insecurity. There's definite growth that I applaud, but nearing the end, when she heads to her final confrontation with the dark witch, Senna didn't believe she was ready -- and I didn't either. Is there a point where martyrdom becomes old? I think so, and felt so. As for Joshen, his  patience and devotion were wow-amazing. He's like the true example of a man's-best-friend dog. Just wow. A bit unrealistic (waiting a year for someone you barely know?) but also very, very sweet. Not necessarily an attractive dog that I understand but definitely one I'd take home.

Going back to Senna, she is a dynamic character who ultimately gains a quiet strength and independence that I admire and respect. And on a larger scale, I admire and respect Amber Argyle's fantasy- and story-building skills in general. But respect doesn't equal full investment; while I enjoyed Senna and Joshens' adventure, it was more like one that I viewed from a distance rather than one I was fully immersed in. I couldn't imagine myself actually out there, singing witch songs right next to Senna, and that's an experience that I always look for in fantasy. That being said, would I take the chance to go on another epic journey with Amber Argyle and her brethren? Sign me up under Jenn Dragonslayer Hobgobbit Subtle Moosetree**.       

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Bottom Line: Still a fairly high rating because WITCH SONG is a rare breath of fresh, unadulterated fantasy. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to all fantasy fans, but if you're a fan of what I classified above as "children's fantasy," grab a sword and ride on, my fellow adventurer. Ah, the nostalgia. //end cheesy fantasy sayings

Cover: It's like a deliciously gorgeous poster.*** With text. But I like it; it's nice to see profile art vs. the usual photography, and I think the earth-hued tones fit WITCH SONG perfectly.


*The song concept reminds me of this one fantasy series I read back in middle school but THE. NAME. IS. ELUDING. ME. I just spent the past hour looking for the name by combing through hundreds of fantasy books on amazon and searching up book lists, but cannot find it. And it's DRIVING ME INSANE. :( Do nature-related powers and a girl with one black braid on a orange/blue cover ring any bells? I know that's incredibly general but... I will find this out, I swear. Then edit this.

**surname courtesy of: If you want to go generate yourself a surname, I'd love to hear it. :D