Thank you, Turn The Page Tours, for the chance to read Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao
Song of Silver, Flame Like Night is the first book in the Song of the Last Kingdom duology by Amélie Wen Zhao. This isn't the author's first series; she's better known for her debut, Blood Heir, which has been reviewed 12,744 times on Goodreads! Like Blood Heir, Song of Silver, Flame Like Night is also published by Delacorte Press, a Random House imprint. It's 467 pages long and falls broadly under the category of fantasy (but more specifically under YA fantasy), mythology, and Chinese folklore.
Lan is a song girl in a colonized kingdom. By day, she alternatively flirts and avoids patrons of the teahouse to make ends meet, and by night sneaks out to try to understand the scar on her arm that no one but her can see. When she accidentally kills an Elantian soldier, she draws the attention of an Elantian magician who killed her mother and really wants her gone too. Lan escapes with Zen, the boy who can see she too is a practitioner (even if she doesn't know it), to go to a place the Elantians can't reach, a school of masters who can train her too. Once there, Lan discovers the truth about her mother's death and takes control to try and protect the ones she loves.
There are some really great things in this book! For one, I loved the magic system the author set up and the world she built. By making Zen Lan's teacher, Zhao could include a lot of information without it being out of place. The Zen and Lan chemistry was also done well; they're instantly attracted to each other. The author keeps going with that instead of randomly sliding it in somewhere. There are some really touching moments, such as when Lan talks about how Zen gives her information so freely when she used to have to beg for it before meeting him. The book also depicted colonialism fairly well, from how resources are extracted to how history is being re-written to suit the victor. The side characters have interesting stories and I'm looking forward to seeing more of them in the next book!
Some things did bug me. The language would sometimes go from being very pretty and slightly old-fashioned to being hyper-modern in the same sentence, which is occasionally jarring. I also noted this in the Iron Widow, and I wonder if this is a style that authors are now experimenting with. Lan also felt very stupid and childish; things like the dancing in the woods scene and when she bathes in the sacred spring just rubbed me the wrong way. The dramatic parent reveal was also a bit blegh.
I am intrigued by the ending with what both Lan and Zen chose, and I'm looking forward to the next book.