music

Review: Long Lost Song, Stephen C Ormsby

This review is part of the Discover Aussie Fantasy feature, running during July on The Oaken Bookcase. You can find details of the feature and enter the giveaway on the Aussie Fantasy page!


Long Lost SongLong Lost Song (Goodreads)
Author: flag_aus Stephen C Ormsby (website)

Rating: ★★★★☆

A virus is decimating America today and Michael Decker is the culprit. Or is he? Is it the work of a curse recorded into a song by 1930’s blues musician Ricky Jensen?

Long Lost Song tells the story of Ricky and Michael as they battle their personal and real demons while the world reaches end times of biblical proportions. One question remains. How do you stop a devil of a song made to break a crossroads deal?

Details

Series: Stand alone (for now)
Genre: Adult Paranormal Thriller
Published: Mythos Press, 2013
Pages: 244 (large format paperback)

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository
E-copies:  Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble • Bookworld (epub)

Review

Long Lost Song is a modern take on the Faustian “selling one’s soul to the Devil” story. The story starts with the young musician Ricky Jensen, making a deal with the Devil in exchange for musical success. Ricky’s story of the 1930s is woven in and out with other stories from the present day, in which the retired rock musician Michael Decker is pulled from his quiet home in rural Victoria and convinced to travel back into the industry in the USA.

Meanwhile, a terrible pandemic has struck in both the US and Australia, spread by one of Ricky Jensen’s old recordings recently uncovered and spread like a virus via the internet and radio. Listening to the original track will kill outright, but watered-down remixes merely mind-control the listener so that the song can be spread further. Soon the whole world will be infected or dead, ready for the Devil’s final showdown. Michael is the only one who can stop the song’s spread, but he is being framed by the enemy as the instigator of the deadly virus, and he has no idea why he is suddenly America’s Most Wanted.

With plenty of unexpected turns, Long Lost Song is a story of the “end times” with a musical twist. There’s plenty of American and Australian music and pop culture references throughout and it’s clear that Stephen Ormsby must have an extensive playlist!

The pace stays high through the story – Michael gets more and more terrified the deeper he finds himself, and although the reader knows what’s going on with the song and its viral spread, most of the characters have no idea what’s really happening until right at the end of the story. This creates an air of fear and impending doom throughout – it’s very exciting storytelling and I found it difficult to put the book down. The jumping around between points of view (sometimes several times within a chapter) can get a little overwhelming and hard to keep up with at times, but each section helps to flesh out how the song is affecting people around the world.

The final chapter is very exciting and leaves plenty of opportunity for a sequel. Do you like the idea of a  fast-paced thriller with a rockin’ twist? Give Long Lost Song a try.

Warnings: Graphic violence including torture, sexual situations

About the Author

Stephen C OrmsbyStephen C Ormsby was an IT professional for twenty years before deciding to lead a more creative life. He has always loved the idea of writing novels and had written four when Long Lost Song came along, demanding to be published.

2013 looks to be a busy year with potentially three books coming out.

He lives in South Gippsland with his wife, two children and a mad cat named Smudge. He has travelled extensively, is an avid reader and enjoys listening to a wide range of music. He also plays guitar really badly.

(Bio paraphrased from Goodreads)

Review: Seraphina, Rachel Hartman

Title: Seraphina (Goodreads)

Author:  Rachel Hartman (@_rachelhartman)

Rating: ★★★★★

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

Details

Series: Seraphina #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers, July 10, 2012.
Pages (Hardcover): 467
My copy: From Random House via Netgalley, thanks!

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

When I first heard that Seraphina was a YA fantasy about dragons, I knew I had to get a hold of it. I didn’t realise that on top of that, Seraphina herself is a gifted musician and assistant to the court Composer! As a lover of dragons, music (sometimes I make it too!) and romance in my fantasy, I was in absolute heaven reading this book.

Seraphina is certainly one of the most eccentric books I’ve read recently. It is set in such a complex world, peopled with several nations worth of humans plus, of course, the dragons. The religion of this world is quite complex as well, with an enormous pantheon of saints available to swear by. There is so much going on, in fact, that the first few chapters are quite slow to get going as we learn about this world and the relationship between the humans and dragons. I’ll admit I started to get a little lost around the time she started wandering through her mental garden. Fortunately things start to pick up as soon as Seraphina gets involved in solving the Prince’s murder, and don’t let up until the end.

Seraphina herself is a rather tortured individual, being a despised dragon-human half-breed. She and her father keep this fact very secret and because of this, she is very lonely, sees visions in her head and seems to be generally grumpy most of the time. It’s actually quite refreshing to see such a non-perfect heroine and her growth during the course of the story is delightful, as she learns more about her mother and the sacrifices she made.

Kiggs, Princess Glisselda and each of the other supporting characters are gorgeous and well-written. The dragons are especially interesting – they take human form in order to communicate with humans, but human emotions are viciously suppressed and so are completely misunderstood when they actually do begin to feel them.

Rachel Hartman has certainly created a beautifully told story that is a delight to read. The complexity of the world may be too much for some, but if you like your fantasy fairly light, witty and full of dragons, get a hold of Seraphina!

Warnings: None, it’s squeaky clean.

Did you know that there’s a free prequel available for Seraphina? It’s called The Audition (Goodreads) and is available on Scribd! It’s only 17 pages long so make sure to check it out!

What did others think of Seraphina?

  • “I have read quite a few stunning Young Adult fantasy novels this year and Seraphina is definitely another one to add to the recommend list. ” – 4/5 – Phillipa of Tea, Daydreams & Fairytales
  • “The imagery alone was breath-takingly beau­ti­ful. The prose were pol­ished and ele­gant. It was a plea­sure to read.” – 5/5 – Kat of Cuddlebuggery
  • “This dazzling debut has everything I love about the Fantasy genre; it features heartwarming characters, is set in a vivid new world (with dragons!) and deals with conflicts that I could immediately relate to. ” – Speculating on SpecFic

 

Five For Friday: Escapism

Why do we read, write and watch Fantasy and Sci-fi fiction?

Aussie author Rowena Cory Daniells wrote a brilliant guest post over on Fantasy & SciFi Lovin’ this week that discussed this very question.

The article not only delves into why we might need some escapism from our daily lives, but also introduced me to Tolkien’s idea of “Eucatastrophe“, which struck a chord with me. Eucatastrophe is described by Tolkien as:

…the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce).

He kind of hit the nail on the head there, didn’t he? That wonderful feeling you get, just as the quest is complete, as the young lovers kiss, as the beautiful view of a city or landscape is revealed – that is why we love fantasy. It’s magic.

After we have grown up enough that we dismiss magic or true romance as not existing, there is still a little child (or teenager) inside us that wishes that wasn’t the case.

I believe that those of us who read, write and watch fantasy stories do so because we know magic probably isn’t real, but what if it is?

Here are five ways to keep that magical feeling alive:

Five Methods of Fantasy Escapism

1. Books

C’mon, did you really think I could write a list like this without mentioning books? Speculative fiction gives us the ability to visit other worlds, experience fantastic possibilities in our own world, or to dream about what the technology of the future may allow us to achieve (or a combination of those!).

From A Wrinkle in Time to the very latest releases such as Throne of Glass or Stormdancer, books have been helping us to escape for a very long time now and there’s no stopping the imaginations of authors!

2. Film

Rowena Cory Daniells mentions in her article that the top 50 grossing films have all been “fantastical in nature”. It seems we love a film to show us other worlds and magical stories. I’d lay bets that most of those films are adaptations of books, but it’s great to see a fantasy world brought to life, isn’t it?

Some (but not all) of my favourite films to escape into over the years include Star Wars, The Fifth Element, The Matrix, The Princess Bride, pretty much all Disney cartoon fairy-tales, Stargate, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, X-Men and other comic-adaptations… the list goes on.

Honourable mentions must go to two films I saw in 3D around the same time, and completely loved – Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon. I think it was the flying scenes that really got me, plus the gorgeous Nagrand floating mountains scenery in Avatar.

3. TV Series

There have been fantastical TV series for almost as long as there have been televisions! I will admit to being a huge Red Dwarf fan during my high school years. I devoured Firefly for the first time last year and have re-watched it since, and I’m currently working my way through the many series of Stargate. We loooove to watch Game of Thrones, and have also been enjoying Once Upon a Time. It seems to be a bit more Sci-fi than Fantasy with TV for me though.

4. Computer Games

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for almost much 6 years now (gosh…), and it’s not all just hacking baddies to bits. The scenery, the music, the Lore involved with the game is so detailed that it really does draw you into the story at times.

It’s not just WoW, of course – most fantasy-style games these days have a detailed story and artwork behind them. Games such as the Elder Scrolls (Skyrim, especially) are so beautiful to explore that I just keep wandering off and losing track of the quest I’m on. Mr Ang was playing one of the Assassin’s Creed games recently on Playstation and I had to sit there and watch because I wanted to know what was going to happen next in the story.

5. Music

Music might not usually be connected with fantasy but I do think it’s one of the most important ways creators of fantasy (authors, film-makers, game designers) can share emotion or a sense of another place with others.

Last weekend I was extremely excited (possibly even nerd-gasmic) to see the Queensland Symphony Orchestra playing the soundtrack of The Fellowship of the Ring while the movie played behind them. It was brilliant! I found most of the time I focused on the movie and occasionally remembered that the orchestra was playing below it, but I spent some time marvelling at how much drama the music adds to the story or giggling at how many people laughed at the “One does not simply…” part!

I’ve got a decent collection of movie and game soundtracks that help me to disappear to far-away places in my mind. My favourites include Empire Strikes Back, How to Train Your Dragon, Lord of the Rings, Wrath of the Lich King, Skyrim and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (I know, I know, but the music is really good :P)

 

So! If you made it this far, I salute you! Tell me all about your fantasy escape methods, I’d love to hear about them!

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