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Elegy (The Magpie Ballads #1)

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BOOK ONE OF THE MAGPIE BALLADS. The Governor of Cassarah is dead. All signs point towards foul play by his old enemy, the Queen of Sarei. The burden of revenge falls on his son, the actor, soldier, and notorious trickster Savonn Silvertongue, whose methods are as flamboyant as they are cruel. But Savonn harbours secrets from his own mischievous past. And he faces ruin as h BOOK ONE OF THE MAGPIE BALLADS. The Governor of Cassarah is dead. All signs point towards foul play by his old enemy, the Queen of Sarei. The burden of revenge falls on his son, the actor, soldier, and notorious trickster Savonn Silvertongue, whose methods are as flamboyant as they are cruel. But Savonn harbours secrets from his own mischievous past. And he faces ruin as his greatest adversary–the beautiful, ruthless diviner known only as the Empath–threatens to bring them to light. Meanwhile, Savonn’s best friend Iyone Safin wages her own deadly battle of wits to stop a string of unexplained accidents, protect the woman she loves, and ultimately, to save Cassarah from the Saraians.


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BOOK ONE OF THE MAGPIE BALLADS. The Governor of Cassarah is dead. All signs point towards foul play by his old enemy, the Queen of Sarei. The burden of revenge falls on his son, the actor, soldier, and notorious trickster Savonn Silvertongue, whose methods are as flamboyant as they are cruel. But Savonn harbours secrets from his own mischievous past. And he faces ruin as h BOOK ONE OF THE MAGPIE BALLADS. The Governor of Cassarah is dead. All signs point towards foul play by his old enemy, the Queen of Sarei. The burden of revenge falls on his son, the actor, soldier, and notorious trickster Savonn Silvertongue, whose methods are as flamboyant as they are cruel. But Savonn harbours secrets from his own mischievous past. And he faces ruin as his greatest adversary–the beautiful, ruthless diviner known only as the Empath–threatens to bring them to light. Meanwhile, Savonn’s best friend Iyone Safin wages her own deadly battle of wits to stop a string of unexplained accidents, protect the woman she loves, and ultimately, to save Cassarah from the Saraians.

30 review for Elegy (The Magpie Ballads #1)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

    I haven't been reviewing things lately, but I'm breaking the streak for this one because it was such an utterly unexpected delight: really well-executed Dunnett-pastiche* fantasy that takes you by the hand and says, "I heard you like Francis Crawford of Lymond? Well, here are TWO Francis Crawfords of Lymond and they are in love and also arch-nemeses, enjoy". To which I obviously say yes please and thank you, and may I have a larger spoon. But even apart from the glory of that premise, it's all s I haven't been reviewing things lately, but I'm breaking the streak for this one because it was such an utterly unexpected delight: really well-executed Dunnett-pastiche* fantasy that takes you by the hand and says, "I heard you like Francis Crawford of Lymond? Well, here are TWO Francis Crawfords of Lymond and they are in love and also arch-nemeses, enjoy". To which I obviously say yes please and thank you, and may I have a larger spoon. But even apart from the glory of that premise, it's all so beautifully done: the worldbuilding, the politics and action sequences, all of the wide cast of characters, the tragic backstory mysteries and genealogical revelations (sometimes you just really want to read a book in which a plucky heroine writes from a convent to say THERE WAS ONLY ONE CHILD, you know?)...It's the sort of story I really wish I'd written, and I would like the second half of it yesterday please. *which sounds disparaging, but as I've said before, good Dunnett pastiche that properly incorporates what makes these novels work is HARD

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ariadna

    Actual rating is 4.5 This book was a great adventure that featured a lot of my fave things: queer MCs, morally gray characters, and excellent pacing and plot. Though, for the record, the first chapter was quite overwhelming. Although there is a romance, I'd say that aspect of the book is put way, way back so keep that in mind (if the M/M romance tag is the reason why you'd consider picking up this novel). What you get instead is lots of political intrigue, sassy assassins, and the kind of story t Actual rating is 4.5 This book was a great adventure that featured a lot of my fave things: queer MCs, morally gray characters, and excellent pacing and plot. Though, for the record, the first chapter was quite overwhelming. Although there is a romance, I'd say that aspect of the book is put way, way back so keep that in mind (if the M/M romance tag is the reason why you'd consider picking up this novel). What you get instead is lots of political intrigue, sassy assassins, and the kind of story that will give you so many feels you might not know what to do with yourself. Part of the reason why I read this book is because it's available in KU. TL;DR: A fascinating historical fantasy full of sweet characters that won't hesitate to stab their enemies, well-rounded female characters, and enough plot to keep you up all night reading this book. Since it's on the pricey side, I'd recommend borrowing it from KU.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    What a flawed but exquisitely beautiful book. I always say that plot is one of the last things I care about in a book, and the amount I loved Elegy is just further proof of that. The prose is absolutely breathtaking, and the characters are sharp and broken and beautiful. They dazzle so brightly that one almost doesn't notice that Elegy is missing an awful lot of plot. It's not that there is no plot, or that its a bad plot or a boring plot or anything like that. When the govener of a city dies hi What a flawed but exquisitely beautiful book. I always say that plot is one of the last things I care about in a book, and the amount I loved Elegy is just further proof of that. The prose is absolutely breathtaking, and the characters are sharp and broken and beautiful. They dazzle so brightly that one almost doesn't notice that Elegy is missing an awful lot of plot. It's not that there is no plot, or that its a bad plot or a boring plot or anything like that. When the govener of a city dies his son, Savonn; our brittle protagonist with a savegely sharp wit and deep reserves of loyalty, simply commandeers a chunk of the army and heads off to the mountains to apprehend his killer. But the mountains are crawling with an enemy army, led by the man Savonn once loved. The issue is that the book simply jumps from plot point to plot point. There are no transition scenes, no quiet moments, no sense of time passing or effort. If the characters need to travel to another city in the next chapter they'll be there, if a letter is sent it arrives on the next page. It gives the impression that everyone is teleport everywhere, and makes everything feel a touch too easy. But who cares. Don't come to this book for the plot (which, again, is hardly bad just poorly paced and oddly structured), come for Savonn. Come for his lover, who I don't want to talk about on account of spoilers, and the viscous, blood-soaked games they play with one another. Come for descriptions that will effortlessly paint beautiful cities in your mind, come for friendships that survive the most brutal of beatings, come for the perfect little moments that will make you fall in love with these characters, even the awful ones.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

    This book was amazing. The writing style is sublime the characters fascinating and intriguing the story flawless and captivating. I absolutely adored reading this. For once there were enough queer characters and they were all cunning clever and just generally fucking cool (i assume Laurent of Vere for one would approve of everything) but with the kind of flaws that makes them relatable and human.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    "Whatever shall we do? You wish to kill me, and I return your ardour most fervently. Yet here we are, dancing together in a city under truce.” [p. 144] Kedris Andalle, Governor of Cassarah, has been murdered: ostensibly by brigands, but the consensus is that it was actually at the behest of the Queen of Sarei. The members of the Cassaran Council are squabbling over who gets to be Governor next: consensus here is that it had probably better not be Kedris' only son, Savonn, known as Silvertongue. Sa "Whatever shall we do? You wish to kill me, and I return your ardour most fervently. Yet here we are, dancing together in a city under truce.” [p. 144] Kedris Andalle, Governor of Cassarah, has been murdered: ostensibly by brigands, but the consensus is that it was actually at the behest of the Queen of Sarei. The members of the Cassaran Council are squabbling over who gets to be Governor next: consensus here is that it had probably better not be Kedris' only son, Savonn, known as Silvertongue. Savonn's unsuitability is evident from the first chapter, in which he transforms his father's funeral into a theatrical production. The next time we encounter him, he's masquerading as a gardener in order to infiltrate the Council's deliberations, to which he has not been invited. A former actor who became a soldier at his father's behest, it's his responsibility to avenge the death: he may have other motivations for leaving Cassarah before old secrets can be laid bare. Meanwhile, his all-but-sister Iyone is investigating a series of murders, and falling in love; and Savonn's squire Emaris is learning a great deal about his commander's past. Though not, obviously, from Savonn himself. This novel was an absolute delight. I find myself nitpicking at small worldbuilding details (it's a fantasy world, so why is there a planet Venus and a month July when gods and vengeful spirits get new names?) just to stop myself, briefly, from gushing. Item: our dashing hero is not especially good-looking. Item: there are major characters who have no apparent romantic or sexual interests at all. Item: all sexualities and genders seem to be equally accepted (there's at least one trans character; Savonn was (is?) in love with another man; there are hints at a polyamorous relationship). Item: multiple strong female characters. (Item: nemeses in love.) What I liked best, I think, was the emotional complexity, which makes up for any over-simplification in worldbuilding, and which reminded me strongly of Dunnett. As did the witty dialogue, the fondness for disguise and stratagem, the rumours of children with questionable parentage, the baffled viewpoint characters ... I wish this book and its sequel (Swansong) were as popular as C. S. Pacat's Captive Prince trilogy. Personally, I find Vale Aida's duology more enjoyable: there's no explicit sex or torture, the characters are more diverse, and the plot somewhat twistier. Your mileage may vary.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Geraldine

    I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS HIGHLY ENOUGH. Flawed and human characters, beautifully characterised with subtle and nuanced writing. Actions flowed from believable motivations so I could empathise with every character. Altogether, it made them so real that I cared about them, worried about them, and hurt when they hurt. Some of them I wanted to punch SO BAD. Some are larger than life. Some I recognised immediately, I’ve met jerks like them before. But none of them left me apathetic. Also, this book has I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS HIGHLY ENOUGH. Flawed and human characters, beautifully characterised with subtle and nuanced writing. Actions flowed from believable motivations so I could empathise with every character. Altogether, it made them so real that I cared about them, worried about them, and hurt when they hurt. Some of them I wanted to punch SO BAD. Some are larger than life. Some I recognised immediately, I’ve met jerks like them before. But none of them left me apathetic. Also, this book has two of the strongest female characters I’ve read in recent years. The relationships. Holy cow the relationships. Complex and sometimes messy, friends, lovers, parent and child, adversaries; the things they would do for each other and to each other, sometimes both at the same time. Amazing writing. Lyrical and insightful with a beautiful rhythm and flow to it. This book was a joy to read. The dialogue was witty and crackling, with a wonderful thrust and parry feel to it. And the feeeels… some scenes gave me actual chest pains. The plot kept me interested and guessing right up to the end, with details being slowly revealed that were sometimes heartbreaking, and sometimes ‘oh s*** how the hell are they gonna get out of this one’. This is a book that stands up to repeated re-readings. And that is the highest compliment I can pay it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jocelin

    Good novels this side of 2000, I've found, are few and far between. Aida seems determined to make up for this dearth with Elegy. It is a book that remains crystalline in both focus and prose, despite the multiple narrators. The novel's world does not shy away from the harsher realities that at times plague the historical contexts from which they derive, but Aida remains blessedly uninterested in compromising the status of women, people of colour, or queer individuals. The plot is paced precisely Good novels this side of 2000, I've found, are few and far between. Aida seems determined to make up for this dearth with Elegy. It is a book that remains crystalline in both focus and prose, despite the multiple narrators. The novel's world does not shy away from the harsher realities that at times plague the historical contexts from which they derive, but Aida remains blessedly uninterested in compromising the status of women, people of colour, or queer individuals. The plot is paced precisely, making it difficult to put aside for more tedious activities such as study or sleep. Both plotlines are interesting full of their own flavours of wit, making them equally delightful to follow. Each of the characters have their individual appeal, and are enjoyable to read; I particularly liked Emaris' development, but to read Aida unfurl Savonn's character was to witness mastery. Of course, the tension between Savonn and the Empath was also tuned quite enticingly. Of course, I cannot conclude my review without commenting on the prose. The Renaissance flair captures the world and its flamboyant characters perfectly, and gratifies with the self-consciousness of its own cleverness—as two Victorian gentlemen sipping port and indulging in an intellectual conversation might luxuriate in their own wit. Still, it is not so overwrought to detract from the story itself: it only serves to add. I eagerly read on.

  8. 4 out of 5

    TatyanaT

    The people I saw reccing this book compared it to Dunnett and Captive Prince, and while I see the surface similarities, the story has its own distinctive voice. I love its evocative, lyrical prose and its cast of interesting, likeable characters with complex relationships and motivations. I wish the book were longer so that the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more (in particular, I'd have loved more quieter moments between them, more personal conversations), but I really like what's The people I saw reccing this book compared it to Dunnett and Captive Prince, and while I see the surface similarities, the story has its own distinctive voice. I love its evocative, lyrical prose and its cast of interesting, likeable characters with complex relationships and motivations. I wish the book were longer so that the characters could have been fleshed out a bit more (in particular, I'd have loved more quieter moments between them, more personal conversations), but I really like what's already there, and I can't wait to start the next one! And yeah, I definitely recommend it to fans of Dunnett/CaPri/all who enjoy well-written character-driven fantasy/historical fiction.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    The world-building is intricate and fascinating, but most of all I loved how the characters and relationships are written. I'm excessively invested in "doe-eyed squire" Emaris. And the language is SO beautiful; lines like, "... and greed touched his heart, the hungry heart that longed to be all beings and possess all possessions" were incredibly gorgeous. The world-building is intricate and fascinating, but most of all I loved how the characters and relationships are written. I'm excessively invested in "doe-eyed squire" Emaris. And the language is SO beautiful; lines like, "... and greed touched his heart, the hungry heart that longed to be all beings and possess all possessions" were incredibly gorgeous.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Emsi

    intriguing plot, compelling characters, delightful read

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stella

    It’s a perfectly fine Fantasy book - I just can’t get myself to keep reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    A Z

    With an enthralling plot, intriguing characters, a voluptuous setting, and an abundance of jaw-dropping twists, this book manages to bring together the best tropes and trends of YA fiction and adult historical fantasy to present a delightful bundle of intelligent writing coupled with a gripping narrative and brilliant character growth. A must-read for anyone in search of an enjoyable read featuring a fascinating cast and world-building of the highest caliber.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Antia

    A very good book! A bit fast paced, but otherwise well written, interesting and with a very good characterization. At the end, you will be looking for the second part. Enjoy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chamudi

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kat

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ann

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kerowyn6

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  20. 5 out of 5

    annie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ayla Ounce

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Linette

  24. 5 out of 5

    Wybie

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zelda Sabel

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  27. 4 out of 5

    Fabusina

  28. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Chen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Deb Dinsmore

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shay

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