Series: The Chronicles of Pellinor #4
Author: Alison Croggon
Pages: 496 (paperback)
Published: September 1st 2008
Published by: Walker Books
The Singing follows the separate journeys of Maerad and Cadvan, and their brother Hem, as they desperately seek each other in an increasingly battle-torn land. The Black Army is moving north and Maerad has a mighty confrontation with the Landrost to save Innail. All the Seven Kingdoms are being threatened with defeat. Yet Maerad and Hem hold the key to the mysterious Singing and only in releasing the music of the Elidhu together may the Nameless One be defeated.
Can brother and sister find each other in time to fight the Nameless One, and are they strong enough to defeat him?
In this culmination of the epic Chronicles of Pellinor, we rejoin Maerad and Hem as they begin on the final steps of their destiny. They both feel the driving need to be reunited, but are in a vast land separated by countless leagues, neither with any idea where the other is. And all the while, the powers of darkness are besieging strongholds of the light and attacking in myriad ways. Both face new challenges and uncover powers they never knew they held, but whether this will be enough is another matter entirely.
This book follows both Maerad and Hem's journeys, each having a few chapters before it switches back to the other. I'm glad to have Maerad back as it is her I'm more interested in (and attached to, even with all that Hem went through in The Crow) her and her journey, admiring her imperfections and the strength she has shown in spite of this. This book again has her battling foes in unprecedented ways, and it's always interesting to see her struggles to defend those people and places she loves and the ways she comes up with of doing so.
Hem is also growing into himself more. After the trials of the last book he has sobered suddenly, no longer the child he was when we first met him but instead trying to find himself against the backdrop of all that has happened in the Suderain. He, too, is finding his confidence and strength, and it was nice seeing the things he finds he is capable of.
We get a few new characters in this book, but for the most part it is simply old faces returning and places being revisited. For Maerad especially, these returns to people and places remind her of just how much she has grown and changed in the time since last being there, and it serves as a reminder to the reader as well, the stark contrast of change in such a short time lost in the pages and time between reading.
There are also some pretty good battle sequences: less hand-to-hand than in previous books maybe, but this just lets you see the Speech being used in new ways, and this is sometimes what I like best about fantasy books. The characters are able to access these abilities and do these things that we would never be able to, and seeing them use their abilities makes fight sequences more exciting in my eyes. Brandon Sanderson's Allomancy (as seen in The Alloy of Law, among other books) is one of my favourite as it really is something special. I'd recommend his Mistborn series on those grounds alone. And while the Speech isn't as high impact as some magic systems out there, it's effects are more wide-reaching, with the wielder able to change and affect so many different things.
The story itself is a bit slower: we're back to quite epic amounts of travelling again, though these are more skimmed over than in previous books which was quite nice. Though thinking back now, a lot of the earlier parts of the book seem to be filler, stuff happening just so people can get places - especially when it comes to Hem. Maerad has these times of her own later in the book, but it stands out more in Hem's story for me. Possibly because I'm less bothered about him in general, I want more to be going on.
I think the build to the climax was done incredibly well, interesting and tense and sad, but the climax itself was a bit of a let down. There was all this build-up, and then there wasn't quite as much made out of it as I would have hoped. Still, the end was satisfying in that all the storylines were tied up nicely and some brewing relationships came to fruition. After a series that has touched on emotion and relationship without it ever really being the focus - like in real life, it's often there as a background but doesn't take over as it can do in some books - it was nice that this too got its time, though still without being over-the-top of losing the spirit of the story.
A good ending to a great series. And I'm already looking forward to my next re-read!