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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield

Lucy’s Chantress magic will make her the most powerful—and most hunted—girl in England. 

“Sing, and the darkness will find you.” This warning has haunted fifteen-year-old Lucy ever since she was eight and shipwrecked on a lonely island. Lucy’s guardian, Norrie, has lots of rules, but the most important is that Lucy must never sing. Not ever. Now it is 1667, Lucy is fifteen, and on All Hallows’ Eve, Lucy hears a tantalizing melody on the wind. She can’t help but sing—and she is swept into darkness. 

When she awakes in England, Lucy hears powerful men discussing Chantresses—women who can sing magic into the world. They are hunting her, but she escapes and finds sanctuary with the Invisible College, an organization plotting to overthrow the nefarious Lord Protector. The only person powerful enough to bring about his downfall is a Chantress. And Lucy is the last one in England. 

Lucy struggles to master the song-spells and harness her power, but the Lord Protector is moving quickly. And her feelings for Nat, an Invisible College apprentice and scientist who deeply distrusts her magic, only add to her confusion... 

Time is running out, and the fate of England hangs in the balance in this entrancing novel that is atmospheric and lyrical, dangerous and romantic.

I'm always searching for engaging YA fantasy novels to love, so I was absolutely thrilled to find Amy Butler Greenfield's Chantress. Set in 1660s England, the novel follows Lucy, a girl that had been, until recently, marooned on a lonely island, alone except for her guardian Norrie. When Lucy disobeys Norrie's strict rule of no singing, her entire world changes as she discovers who she truly is and the responsibilities that sit squarely on her shoulders... and her shoulders alone.

The magic in Chantress is accessed through song and singing. At one time, there were many chantresses, but, we soon discover Lucy is the only one left after the rest were hunted and killed, scapegoats for crimes they did not commit. Lucy, who has lived on the island for as long as she can remember, knows nothing of Chantresses, so this first novel focuses heavily on Lucy's training and education, as she's the only person that has the power to overthrow the Lord Protector who terrorizes England with his evil Shadowgrims.

Though the plot of Chantress was relatively slow, I didn't find myself bored by the pacing. As a fan of adult epic fantasy, I appreciate world building, which I think Greenfield accomplished artfully. Additionally, I found this first installment to be primarily character driven and I adored the characters. Lucy may be the main character, but I enjoyed the prominence of the secondary characters. Seeing as Lucy has so much to learn and, therefore, cannot be the source of very much of the reader's information, the secondary characters are very important to the reader's understanding of the novel's setting and practices.

I have to admit, the Shadowgrims and the villain weren't very scary, but this wasn't an issue for me. Lucy spends much of the novel training and interacting with various characters, but she's yet to make any big moves against the Lord Protector. I fully expect the next book to deal much more closely with the dangers and villainous actions of the Lord Protector.

One of my favorite relationships in Chantress was Lucy's friendship, and budding romance, with Nat. Nat is a scientist and very bookish and is, at first, quite distrustful of Lucy and her magic. This relationship is not easy for either of the characters, but, as a reader, I loved the tension between Lucy and Nat. I definitely am excited to see what happens between these two characters in future installments. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this first book in the Chantress trilogy. It didn't feature very much action, but, since I was invested in the characters, I wasn't bothered. I'll be reading the next two books in the trilogy and am excited to see what Greenfield offers next.

Margaret K. McElderry Books, May 2013, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781442457034, 336 pgs.


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