Book Review: The Song of the Marked

An ancient evil is stirring. The old gods grow restless. Can she stop the storm that’s brewing?

Today I am coming to you with my review of this amazing indie fantasy that came right out of left field and totally gob-smacked me with how good it is. Okay, so I knew I would like it going in; I mean, it has so many of my favorite things: fierce female heroine, mysterious magic that isn’t quite understood, broody and dangerous man who may or may not be on the “good” side, and a rich fantasy world. What is not to love about all of that? But then the plot came along, and twisted and turned on me until I didn’t know which way was up, and I certainly didn’t know who to trust. And well, the book ended, and I was left with my jaw hanging open and that feeling of I need the next book in the series and I need it NOW. So yeah, this one is a favorite book of 2020 so far for me. Read on for a synopsis and more in-depth (but still **spoiler-free** as always) review. Then do yourself a favor, and get a copy! This book came out in September, and you can buy it here.

Title: The Song of the Marked (Goodreads, Amazon)
Author: S.M. Gaither
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars

“…she couldn’t help feeling there was enough death in the world without her gratuitously adding to it.

Synopsis

Mercenary Casia Greythorne cares about two things: Completing whatever her latest job is, and earning enough coin to buy the expensive medicine that’s keeping her mentor alive. 

So when the king himself offers her a job, she can’t resist the massive reward he offers—even if it means working with Captain Elander, the arrogant, mysterious right-hand to that king.

Her partner may be infuriating, but at least their mission seems simple and quick enough: Investigate the origins of the strange plague that’s been ravaging their empire, help find a cure, and then call it a day.

But in a land brimming with old magic and meddling gods, nothing is ever that simple, and nothing is ever what it seems.

As the bodies pile up and strange monsters begin to wreak havoc throughout the realms, Cas and Elander will have to work together to protect their world whether they like it or not. Because one thing is clear: Something ancient and evil is stirring in the shadows of that world.

And their empire will not survive its full unleashing. 

My Review

In case what I wrote above didn’t make it clear, I loved this book! I remember it moved a little stiltingly for my taste in the first chapter and I was worried I wouldn’t like the writing style. Well, I needn’t have been concerned! After the first couple of chapters, it took off and really started to flow. I absolutely LOVED the world this is set in, and I found out the author has a whole other series–The Serpents and Kings Trilogy–set in the same world. So you can guess what I’ll be reading next!! I am so excited. I will say though, at this moment, with The Song of the Marked ends, it will be hard to go and read another story set in the same world because what I really need, and RIGHT NOW, is the rest of Cas’s story. I cannot wait for the author to publish the rest of it.

“She rarely thought of herself as brave; she had simply become well-practiced at doing things in spite of her fear.”

Here is a bullet list of things I loved:

  • The characters — Cas is bull-headed and a bit impetuous, and I loved that about her. However, she also struggles with anxiety, and I thought the author did such a great job of portraying both how crippling anxiety can be but also how people can come up with tools and strategies to overcome it and truly become stronger and braver people because of it. I loved that Cas and Elander actually talk about it, and it is normalized and just part of who she is, not something she needs to “fix” per se. And Elander, oh Elander. I just love the dark, brooding, secretive, yet perhaps secretly a cream puff underneath it all, type. That is my go-to book boyfriend. And I got it in spades this book. He may have climbed into my top 5, but I will have to reserve judgment until I finish the series.
  • The “crew” — We start out the book learning about Cas and her crew of mercenaries, and how they are a found family, and it warmed my cold little heart right up to read about it. I loved the side characters in her crew, and I want to invite them all over for a BBQ. So yeah. That was awesome.
  • The magic — I just love all the different types of magic and how people are “marked” to show what kind of magic they have. But magic is dying out because it has been persecuted and eradicated, at least in Kethra, and it was so interesting to read about why and how. Usually in fantasies, it’s the magic-wielders who have all the power, so it was kind of fun to read one where this trope is turned on its head. I also love love stories where the main character turns out to also have magic, but they just didn’t know it. I won’t say more because this is spoiler-free, but it’s a wonderful part of this story.
  • The ending — I really won’t divulge anything except to say, I saw some of it coming but was still hoping it wouldn’t be so, but then there was another part I absolutely did not see coming at all, and my head exploded. Isn’t it amazing that I can write a blog post with an exploded head?

“Her lip curled in annoyance. Not only had he shown up here and insisted on barging into her room, but he had also decided to look even better than usual while he did it.
The audacity.”

So that’s it. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it if you love twisty-turny fantasy with a healthy dose of romance. Thank you so much to the author and to Book of Matches Media for letting me read this copy in advance and share my unbiased review.

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