One of my latest additions to my ever-expanding shelf was Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross, a unique jewel of a book, and one I recommend.
The world that Ross creates in SoSS is reminiscent of the mystique and charm of ancient Rome, with magic interlacing each word. I found myself captivated by the lush setting, the seemingly quiet but powerful magic that imbues the world, and the strength of these two remarkable sisters each engaged in their separate journeys, but fighting for each other.
The story line starts out slow, but builds as the true conflict begins to take shape. Naturally, Eva has an incredibly compelling story line in her role of the sister who tries to take Halcyon’s place in her punishment. Her journey into magic and her quest for a lost crown of a deity sets a far different tone than that of Halycon’s chapters.
Halcyon faces a much darker narrative, as she seeks to embrace her punishment whilst struggling to survive the injustices thrust upon her.
I do thoroughly enjoy Eva’s chapters, I particularly liked her role as a scribe and her adventures through the mountain. Ross has a unique way of mesmerizing you with her settings. The only part of Eva’s chapters that I did not enjoy as much was the romantic aspect between Eva and Damon, the mage. I found myself not drawn in as much as I think Ross would have hoped. I do believe them to be a fine pair, but for me the evolution was slightly lacking. I prefer my romances to be a bit more fanatic, a little less two-dimensional. But, in a way, the sincerity and quiet charm of it added to the overall beauty of the novel. Nothing as messy as the severe enemies-to-lovers trope would really fit quite as well into this story.
Halcyon’s challenges, in my mind, were far more interesting. The stakes were particularly high as she faced death in the mines at the hands of a truly dislikeable mage. What I thoroughly enjoyed what’s how well Ross portrayed her deep morals, and her inability to be broken.
I think that’s what I enjoyed most about the sisters in general: their combined inability to be broken.
The only thing is that with such morally compassed characters, they might seem inaccessible to the reader. Now, this might not be true for everyone, but what draws me into a story, and the lives of the characters, more than anything is how I relate to these characters. My own personal tastes yearn for characters who are flawed, morally questionable, exciting in a fresh way.
This is the only part of the story that felt flat for me. I unfortunately didn’t feel that ludicrously unshakable spark of excitement and endearment for these characters, even though they and their journeys were fairly interesting and lovable.
But here is where I will back-peddle a bit. Even though I enjoy experiencing characters with a wild streak and a strong arc, like you might find in an Armentrout or a Legrand novel, I don’t feel as though this would have worked for SoSS.
The writing style and story are, in a word, lovely, quite artful, and having characters that are morally ambiguous and complicated in the extreme might detract from the story and the uniquely crafted piece of literature that Ross dreamed into being.
I would compare books like the ones I have described from Armentrout to treasure chests filled with gold and vaguely confusing maps that might lead to more extraordinary treasure, or might lead to a wicked den of creatures. And on the other hand, Sisters of Sword and Song is like a chest of diamonds; entrancing and beautiful, simply diamonds through and through, no unexpected plunges into chaos.
Overall, I would give this book an exceptional review as far as literary merit is concerned. It truly is a gem of exquisite writing. If you are looking for a cast of characters that will wrap you up in intrigue and grip you with thrill, you might not find this book as enticing, but I encourage chancing the change of pace. We will always have our Maas characters that will chew us up and spit us out even as we fervently cling to the pages, but something as bewitching as Ross’ book doesn’t come to the shelf often, and needs its due appreciation.