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The Singer's Crown by Elaine Isaak
Review by Madeleine Yeh
Eos Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0060782536
Date: October 2005 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

As the book opens Kattanan accompanies Princess Melisande on a visit to her betrothed Earl Orie. Earl Orie takes a dislike to Kattanan and tries to kill him, but Kattanan escapes and finds himself captured by opponents of his uncle Thorgeir. This group is led by Kattanan's grandmother, who wants to use Kattanan as a figurehead. A simultaneous coup is being plotted by Earl Orie against King Gerald, the father of Princess Melisande. There are a fair number of other characters in the book, Prince Wolfram, the earl's brother Fionvar, the Wizard of Nine Stars and Baron Edmond. Few commoners are mentioned in this book. The maids, cooks, guards and stable hands remain nameless and faceless and nearly nonexistent until needed as cannon fodder. Kattanan is more trapped as the leader of the rebellion than he had been as a slave musician, his grandmother, dictating his every word and action. Afterwards she plans to see him married and crowned king, and remain the real power behind the throne. Kattanan needs to see the rebellion successfully concluded and then rescue himself from the kingship.

The action part of the book is fine. Murder and conspiracy and magic and treachery are finely intermingled. The minor characters are very enjoyable. The villains are wonderfully villainous and the heroes dashing. The heroines are actually better drawn, Brianna torn between love and duty, the wizard of Nine Stars wanting revenge and love, and the duchess sternly using everything and everyone to seize a kingdom and avenge her dead daughter and grandsons.

However the two main characters are not believable. Kattanan is supposed to be infatuated with Princess Melisande. Princess Melisande is just too stupid, impulsive and down right juvenile a character to be a princess or anyone's love. She chooses a fiancée because the choice irritates her brother. She snarls at her maids and ladies. Princess Melisande seems to have no sense of duty, responsibility, dignity or even caution. Her character would actually be perfect for a spoiled six year old, the only child and only grandchild of a doting parents and grandparents. But it doesn't fit the story. Melisande is the youngest of four children, a royal princess, and old enough to marry; she shouldn't be acting so irresponsible. Kattanan also has strange blind spots and juvenile temper tantrums, but is a more believable person than Melisande. At first Kattanan is too timid and scared to make a good hero, but changes suddenly to decisive and bold. This makes the end of the story much more enjoyable but not particularly believable. The author has only done a fair job at world building. The religion is detailed and well crafted, complete with funeral services and prayers and songs. The politics, kingdoms, fighting and economy are only barely sketched out.

The book has the feel of having started as a role-playing game, a handful of characters compete for the reader's attention with an action driven plot, and a world created more by hand waving than by careful thought.

I found the book enjoyable but not truly satisfying. Some of the minor characters and subplots were fine, but the main characters are both disappointing, and the world is rather unimaginative.

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