Published by HarperCollins on June 25th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.
Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.
From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.
I wanted desperately to love Sisters of Sword and Song – all about a sisterly bond, a standalone, with mythological elements? It sounded like it should have been exactly up my alley, and all the reviews I’ve read have been brilliant, but for reasons I can’t really put my finger on, I found it disappointing.
Halcyon and Evadne live in a world where Gods are real, and each has a magical artefact which gets passed down through their descendants, passing on a magical ability to whoever receives it – even if the recipient has no magical skills. As well as that, there are individuals who truly have magic, who don’t need the artefacts, and of course, those with magic have the power. Neither Halcyon or Evadne have any magical abilities; their family deity fell and the artefact was lost, leaving Halcyon and Evadne pretty much the lowest class. Halcyon does however have great physical strength, and left to join the army 8 years ago. As the book opens, Halcyon has arrived a day early, determined not to be seen and running from her commander, to Evadne’s confusion. While Halcyon is spared a conviction of murder, she receives a length sentence, and Evadne volunteers to take a share of it, not knowing what she’s letting herself into.
Halcyon and Evadne were both likable enough characters, and I liked the switching points of view, but I would have liked to see each fleshed out a bit more. Halcyon is defined by her strength and her fighting ability, while Evadne, above all, is defined by her love for her sister. I wanted MORE of each of them – more of the history between them, more of Halcyon’s training and how she ended up on trial, more of Evadne’s life WITHOUT her sister, where I feel like she would have become more of her own person.
Ross’ writing is lovely, and is by far one of the best things of the book in my opinion – she writes evocatively without being overly flowery or long-winded, and she got me inside the characters’ emotions really well, making me feel what the characters were feeling (even if I didn’t necessarily see why they felt that way). The plot was full of twists and turns, and yet somehow still felt formulaic – I think because I wanted more of the most unique elements of Ross’ story. The concept of the gods was great, and I liked how much thought Ross has clearly put into coming up with each deity, their artefact and what the benefits of that artefact would be. Similarly, the magic system and the determination of how much power a person had, was fascinating. Unfortunately, I feel like we got only a superficial overview of both of these things, and so the artefacts felt more like an add-on than an integral part of the story. While it’s nice to have a standalone now and again, this was one time where I think it could have been a duology or even trilogy without feeling slow and like there was too much filler. So much happens in Sisters of Sword and Song, but each event also gets resolved quickly so that the next big twist can happen, which meant I felt removed from the excitement: despite there being so much going on, I felt like I didn’t have time for tension to build before each crisis was solved.
As I said before, I’m VERY much the exception to have not loved it, so I wonder if this may be a case of timing – after all, I DNF’d Game of Thrones the first time I tried to read it, and now it’s one of my favourite books! I have an arguably borderline-unhealthy level of love for Frozen, (which is, after all a fantasy story about a pair of sisters, the weaker one trying to save the more conventionally powerful one) and I adored the concept of Sisters of Sword and Song so I had really high expectations going into this book. I think maybe that, plus the fact that thanks to school holidays and lockdown I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, combined to make this just the wrong book at the wrong time for me.
Buy it? Maybe – the cover and the writing are gorgeous, so I think this may be a case of reading at the wrong time.
In a nutshell: A mythology-inspired fantasy standalone about two sisters that I have very much been the exception not to love!