Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule is one of the galleys I picked up at Midwinter. It releases in March, so if you find it interesting, you do not have too long to wait!
da Navelli, daughter of a famous singer and a renowned conductor, is a
new student at the Dunhammond Conservatory, a place seeped in mystery
and legend and surrounded by a dark, deep forest. Sing is there for the
music, not the mystery -- she sees Dunhammond as the place where she
will finally come into her own as a singer, stepping out of the shadow
of her dead mother's musical legacy. She knows that she can sing well,
but her confidence is undermined by her own mental comparisons of her
voice to her mother's, a problem that is exacerbated when the school
puts on her favorite opera Angelique, and she is cast as an
understudy to the lead. The opera, written long ago by the school's
founder, is said to have been inspired by the forest around the school.
It tells of the Felix, a creature that often brings destruction, but
occasionally grants wishes to the most desperate. Is the Felix real? And
even if it were, what would Sing wish for?
This book does a good
job of creating atmosphere and tension. I found the setting strong and
the competitive nature of the music conservatory well described. Sing is
a complex and not always likable character, but her motivations are
clear and realistic. On the other hand, many of the secondary characters
are fairly flat, and the romance that comes in toward the end of the
book seems hurried and abrupt. The author has chosen to write in present
tense, using past tense only for the occasional flashback chapter -- a
choice that may irritate some readers. However, if you can get past
those quibbles, if you enjoy boarding school stories with music and
magic, you might find this book a worthwhile read.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)