Review: Songs of the Earth

Posted: April 27, 2012 by in Books We Hate (1/5 single_star) Meta: Elspeth Cooper, Epic Fantasy

Okay, so there are times when this job gets difficult, and this is one of those times. Writing stories and then putting them out into the world for people to either love to pieces or gnash between their teeth is not easy. As a reviewer though, I feel like it’s my responsibility to give an honest opinion. I always try to do that. That being said, I’m sure that Mrs. Cooper is a really nice person, but this book just wasn’t very good at all.

SONGS OF THE EARTH (Amazon) is Elspeth Cooper’s debut novel and the first in The Wild Hunt trilogy, recently picked up by Tor. Wandering around the internet, I’ve seen this book compared to the works of David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and Gail Martin, as well as to THE NAME OF THE WIND and even THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA in terms of impact and goodness. For me though, it felt like old-school David Eddings with a Harry Potter-esque story line but all taken down about twelve notches.

The story revolves mostly around one main character, but toward the end really flies off the handle with the number of characters that get screen time. There was no justification for this plethora of people however, and so I’ll focus on the three that played the most prominent roles.

Young Gair has been a knight-in-training for several years, hiding his song-based magical powers from his superiors, but has just been found out and sentenced to death for his abilities. Alderan is a mysterious old guy that swoops in and saves the day for Gair, freeing him from his doom and hauling him off to a group of islands where magic users train in secret. Masen is a Gate Keeper and protector of sorts, living up in the mountains where the veil between his world and the next is located.

SONG OF THE EARTH was painful to read. Clichéd, aimless, slow, and lacking anything that engaged or interested me. Fantasy should be better than this.

At the beginning of the book, Masen finds out that the veil is failing and that soon the next world will flood through and destroy them all. He spends the entire book (months and months) traveling by boat, and foot, and sometimes mule, to the islands of the magic users. Meanwhile, after his narrow escape from the Knights of the church, Gair lounges around at the island’s mage school, doing not much of anything that advances what little obvious plot there is. It felt just like a Harry Potter book at times–only without any classes, and without any friends, and without any mention of He-who-must-not-be-named. There was a castle though, and Gair is an orphan that’s fulfilling prophecy. So my analogy works.

World-building is minimal. Fore-shadowing is nearly non-existent–sketchy and vague at the best of times. The two ideas that did pull through were that Gair’s magical powers are threatening to literally tear him apart and the bad guys are threatening to break through the veil and kill them all. The ending nearly drove me insane though. Sudden bouts of undirected inspiration with regard to magical control and bad guys that just walk away from what they want are not ways to win points in my book.

This novel as a whole felt like it had been pulled out of a time capsule from the 80’s. The writing style, the concepts, the characters and streamlined story. Nearly everything was there. Well, everything but one thing, and that was a relative degree of chastity. About halfway through the book, a large number of fairly explicit masturbation and sex scenes popped up (for nearly every character in the book), and I have to admit as to being completely dumbfounded to find content like that in a story that was otherwise a shining example of the highly moralistic fantasy of yesteryear.

This book was painful to read. Clichéd, aimless, slow, and lacking any real merit. It’s nothing even close to the “fantasy debut of the year” that it has been touted to be. We’re elitists here. We tell it like it is. Don’t go near this one. Odds are you’ll regret it.

  • Recommended Age: 18+ for sexual content
  • Language: Very mild
  • Violence: Very little
  • Sex: Strong and detailed scenes


  • Bob Milne says:

    Hmm. The David Eddings & Terry Brooks comparison I can definitely see, but based on what I've see so far, THE NAME OF THE WIND and THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA just don't seem to fit.

    I'll likely still give this a chance, but I won't be in a hurry to do so.

  • SeekingPlumb says:

    I can't believe it was compared to THE NAME OF THE WIND & THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA. Sacrilege!!

    It's a shame they wasted an appealing cover on this book.

    I'm steering far & clear of this book.

    Thanks for always standing by your elite tastes! 😀

  • Gus says:

    Ok, so its not the name of the wind, but i still think its a fairly good book

  • Meikle says:

    Halfway through and I agree with you on every point. Giving up now – I just don't care enough about the characters and I'm struggling to keep track of who is who.

    Shame because I wanted to like it, but it became a combination of every fantasy story with little of the charm.

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