A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe is a song with beautiful lyrics, but the tune leaves you wishing for more.
I received this book as a gift from Rainy Kaye, in September 2016. I lost a lot of books due to a Kindle app crash. Recently, I found out about the cloud thingy and retrieved all my precious possessions back. Talk about technologically challenged. Phew!
Let’s start from the top.
A Mortal Song: The review
A Mortal Song has a beautiful book cover.
Megan Crewe’s writing style is simple, lucid, almost poetic. She has blended the descriptive world building with a consistent onslaught of action, thus never letting the flow of the story suffer.
The magical land of Mount Fuji, the path to the kami palace, the sanctuary, these are few of my favorite places from this book. We get a glimpse of the picturesque Japan, however, imaginary it might be.
I liked the description of the use of ki, the ghost lights, the animal kami, ghost attacks. Vivid and memorable.
The emotions of the characters like love, longing, betrayal, empathy, vengeance were handled fairly well.
So why three and half and not four bohostars?
That’s a tough question. I was tempted to, actually did rate four stars on Goodreads. However, unlike Goodreads, my bohemian mind allows me parts of a star. No matter how beautiful the writing, or how magical the world is, the characterization and plot weren’t exceptional.
Wait, correction. The plot has an excellent twist at around one-third of the story. But after that, the formula is predictable and somewhat forced upon. I have no qualms against a time-tested plot but do look for some variety in the execution.
Sora, the POV character (excellent uniformity of POV by the way), was born and brought up as a kami princess. You need to google the word if you don’t have much idea about the Japanese folklore. A nature spirit worshiped by those of Shinto faith, these powerful mythical beings are invisible to people.
The formula of YA urban fantasy genre is usually either a female lead who can do anything and has a lot of magical/supernatural powers or is a damsel in distress pouting at the Savior hero’s unwanted but secretly coveted attention.
Pages of hair style, clothes, the process of ugly duckling becoming Cinderalla followed by some villain’s ass-kicking, this is what I find.
A Mortal song takes a detour from the genre formula at the very beginning.
First point to the book, Sora’s story starts with her destiny that she is the ‘chosen one,’ who’s going to deliver protection to her people.
However, on her seventeenth birthday, Sora’s world crashes around her as her palace is under attack and she is forced to flee.
She also finds out the secret of her identity. A regular human girl, she was exchanged with a powerful kami, the prophesied savior of their people. Instead of throwing tantrums or hissy fits, this girl sucks it up and moves on. USP of this book, in my opinion.
Sora sides with the man of her dreams, Takeo, the palace guard and her personal protector (this guy continues even after he knows she isn’t the leader he is meant to serve) and launches a search party for Chiyo Ikeda, the real princess, and kami.
Midori, the dragonfly, and Kami extraordinaire is a communicative selfless little being who gives her life protecting Sora’s secrets and supplying her with her own Ki. Ki, the magical element all Kamis are supposed to have.
Midori’s character was lovely; her death was tragic. Sora and Midori’s silent exhibition of friendship and mutual loyalty was more significant than any other relationship in the book because it was unique.
I will not claim Sora to be one of my favorite characters. She dwells over her lack of magic for too long, rambling quite often about how she has lost her worth, bringing in some sighs and eye rolling at instances. Her physical prowess regarding combat and endurance isn’t exceptional.
The book repeats that she has had better training than Chiyo, but Sora mostly comes out of tricky situations using her guile and level head. That’s some super power, methinks.
Sora’s initial daze with Takeo dries up once she meets Kenji, who quite predictably turns out to be a traitor and then, surprise, surprise, turns against his brother, for the ‘side of the right.’ Double crossing, kind of’. Don’t you think?
Takeo, we are told, is handsome, polite, earnest, and an able warrior and takes his palace guard job seriously. He cares for Sora, feels responsible for Chiyo and never feels a hint of jealousy towards Kenji, who is more ‘normal’ that way.
Takeo’s kiss and his feelings were like, ‘whatever the princess says.’
Kenji was invisible to me.
I liked Chiyo, a breath of fresh air amid the usual. As colorful as her hair, Chiyo is a charming personality, never losing her positivity and inner peace, even when in near death situations.
I appreciate the antagonist’s treatment in the story. His personal tragedy, thirst for vengeance, no matter how misplaced and delusional, are something we all can relate to. I mean, a great personal tragedy can loosen your bolts. This guy had simply gone through too much.
The way Sora talked him out of his evil plan (not before some damage was done) instead of a flashy combat of magic, it’s not routine. I felt that remorse gave the villain a status of the anti-hero, more respectable and appreciable.
All in all, a good action packed plot with twists and turns though not unpredictable, was worth a read. I have enjoyed the ghosts’ descriptions, the kami forms. The author never mentioned what a Kami is, assuming readers are familiar with Japanese folklore. She did give us the hints through mention of shrines, invisibility, healing powers, and responsibilities.
Better than a classroom lecture, I believe.
Oh, forgot the world building. Mount Fuji and Tokyo, both exist. But Megan Crewe does us a great favor by restraining the ‘urban’ part of the story only through cars, guns, shirts and jeans. She shows us the world through the eyes of a human raised by the Kami. So yes, it’s magical.
A beautiful book with characters built around the plot could have been better with more dimension to the characters but all in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable journey of a young girl who never faced away from the responsibility that wasn’t even hers.
Rating and recommendation
Three and a half bohostars.
The rating on Goodreads, Amazon and the synopsis below are 4, in absence of partial ratings.
I recommend this book to those who like light YA fantasy, but middle graders and adults with a young mind might enjoy it too.