Book Review: A Mortal Song by Megan Crewe

A Mortal Song cover

 

A Mortal Song is a YA fantasy about Sora (which means “sky” in Japanese), a teenage girl who lives with her kami (godlike spirits) parents on Mt. Fuji. Sora is curious about humans and comes down from the mountain as an invisible presence to visit their homes. I love how Sora bows to the humans before  leaving, even though they can’t see her. That’s so Japanese.

Growing up with a Japanese mom and having spent a lot of time in Japan, I was intrigued by this story’s Japanese setting and incorporation of Japanese Shinto beliefs in kami. I was on the lookout for gaffes and have to say Crewe’s world-building was solid.

Sora’s best friend is Takeo, a kami-like royal guard. As they play and explore on Mt. Fuji, they encounter interesting modern moments like tourists with their cameras.

A Mortal Song takes an interestingly creepy turn with this passage: “dodged the pale trunk of a birch—and nearly darted right through a ghost.” And then, later: “Ghosts were prowling all through that glade.”

Crewe has written many books and has as a strong writing style. For instance: “The second he hit the water, his body shattered into a sparkling mist. It faded into the breeze, and then he was gone, his ki returning to the world from which it had come.”

When battle is waged against all kami, the story turns epic. Sora learns she is a human girl who was switched at birth with the true kami daughter of Mt. Fuji’s prince and princess.  Sora and Takeo must travel to Tokyo to find the other daughter. The true kami daughter–who’s been raised to believe she’s human–is such a unique and interesting character. So much more could have been done with her character, as well as other elements of the story, but unfortunately they take a back seat to. . . romance.

Sora immediately starts falling for a human kid, makes out with him even after he betrays her, and it just doesn’t sit right (at least not with this reader). There are other, much more compelling emotional issues set up for Sora, but they’re dismissed because. . . romance.

The overall concept is a winner, the cover is pretty, and the juxtaposition of ancient Shinto gods and modern-day Japan is interesting. The beginning is especially fun to read. Crew imaginatively weaves in ghosts, demons, and kami (godlike spirits). At one point there’s even a yakuza or two (Japanese gangsters).

If you like Japanese culture and ghosts, you might enjoy A Mortal Song.

 

 

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Poor, neglected blog. Time to check in.

I wish I were hoverboarding right now above the river, the wilderness, and the Rusty Ruins just like Tally, the protagonist in Uglies, which I am currently reading (my first Scott Westerfeld novel).

Sometimes life gets so crazy busy that even things that are important to me, like blogging, have to get shoved to the side for a while. There are so many things I want to do in life. Unfortunately, a day job is one of them. I like being a teacher, but I’m in a place right now where I truly, honestly feel that writing full-time is what I need to be doing. But tell that to my bank account. 

The good news is I continue to grow and learn as a writer. I’m still mastering the art of completing a polished novel, but with every novel I write I get better and closer to proving to myself (and hopefully to the world) that I have what it takes to make it as a professional writer. I’ve made friends in the writing community, people so far removed from my daily life it’s kind of funny, like I have an alternate life. Which I guess I kind of do. To the rest of the world I’m mom, wife, teacher, friend, errand runner, whatever. But then there’s this inner world apart from all that in which I’m the chick who’s busting her tail to become a successful published author. There are lots of dues to pay.

I try to squeeze in writing 500-100 words however I can each weekday and then several thousand more on Saturdays and Sundays. A full-time teaching schedule, then a part-time job after school (teaching at a private school and Southern California’s cost of living do not see eye to eye), then tending to family and home doesn’t leave time for hobbies, except for reading, which of course is like calling breathing a hobby.

TV? What’s TV?

One of the only TV shows I have time for is Broad City, which is an effing hilarious show. Genuinely funny women being bawdy and crude makes me happy.

My husband also recently turned me on to a show on Netflix called River, which is pretty great.

All the characters in the series look like real people–a television trend I adore, and it has an intriguing paranormal theme, too. Detective River talks to ghosts who help him solve crimes, kind of like a darker, much more British (it’s set in London, yay!) Medium (remember that show with Patricia Arquette?) The acting is excellent. The writing is, too. In fact, one scene brought tears to my eyes, when River, the downtrodden, ghost-seeing, expert detective says:

“I’m a good officer. But, in this world, that’s not enough. In this world you have to be able to nod and smile and drink a pint, and say, “How was your day?” In this world, no one can be different or strange.  Or damaged. Or they lock you up.” [River (2015), season 1, episode 2]

What was it about this line that got me so choked up? Of course, there was something about what he said that I related to, as in we have things about ourselves that we know are smart or clever or special, but people don’t always see them. The charming people who walk with the most confidence seem to get a lot. People like me who bust our tails don’t necessarily get recognition unless we also know how to play politics. That exhausts me.

Give me writing, reading, and talking to people who love those things, too. And a hoverboard.

–Eve Messenger

The Surprise Star of the 8 Books I Read in March was. . .

March Reads 2016 copy

Oh, look at all the literary worlds I got to visit in March.

Only a Hundred Pages Shorter than Moby-Dick
At 565 pages, The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden was my longest read of the month, with A Gathering of Shadows coming in second at 500 pages. The Casquette Girls was one of those books that had me scratching my head wondering why it kept me so engrossed. I think the biggest reason is that the paranormal characters and events were interwoven with the enchanting, extraordinary world of New Orleans. 4 stars

Transported to a Dream then Sparked with a New ObsessionTsukiko from The Night Circus by CaylaLydon
With tThe Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern transported me to a dream world of magic, a battle to the death, and compelling characters, including my new favorite, Claire Bowen. This book also left me with a dire need for a prequel featuring Tsukiko and Hinata. If you read the  book, hopefully you’ll understand. The Night Circus was published in 2011 as the first in a series, but Erin Morgenstern is still working on the sequel because, apparently, writing this beautiful takes time. 4.5 stars

What’s a Story Without Believable Motives?
The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts by K.C. Tansley
There’s a lot to like about The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts. Of course, there are ghosts, and a girl who can see them, then there’s possession and a sort of time travel with an ancient curse. The biggest issue for me was believability–there wasn’t a compelling enough reason for the protagonist to risk everything to embark on her dangerous journey. Perhaps for that reason, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts did not pass my “skim test,” meaning I found myself speed-reading through numerous passages that didn’t further the story.  3 stars

Why Friends Don’t Let Friends Write Alone
Beta read-Adult Paranormal WIP by  Tracy L. Jackson
My dear writing friend Tracy calmly talks me down from writing ledges, fangirls with me over The Walking Dead each week, and now has entrusted me to offer honest feedback on her wonderful work in progress, an adult paranormal novel. Since it’s not published yet, I won’t reveal much except to say there are MANY characters to fall in love with, plus an intriguing curse and, again, the amazing city of New Orleans. I want to read more books set in New Orleans! If you have any to recommend, I’d love to hear.

Why I am No Longer a Cassandra-Clare-Book Virgin
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
At last, I read my first Cassandra Clare book. Clockwork Angel was darker than I’d expected, which was a nice surprise. And the characters–Tessa, Jessamine and, oh, I’m enraptured by Jem. I saw certain plot twists coming from a mile away, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and wanting to read more in the series. 4 stars.

Schwab, You Got Me to Read Your Second Book
A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
I loved, adored, was blown away by the masterful writing of A Darker Shade of Magic, so I had to read the second book, A Gathering of Shadows. Amazing new characters were introduced, notably Alucard and Ojka. Plus, the Element Games were super fun, and Lila still kicks butt. But I enjoyed the first book more, probably because I’m a “discovery” reader, meaning I get the most pleasure out of discovering new worlds, characters, and writers, and it takes a LOT for me to spend more time in a literary world I’ve already experienced. 4.5 stars

Surprise Star of the Month
Pivot Point by Kasie West
I knew I wanted to check out Kasie West’s writing at some point, but Pivot Point wasn’t even on my radar until, on a whim, I picked it up from the library. I’m so glad I did. It was one of those “exactly what I was in the mood for” books. The plot kept me guessing all the way through, and the unique story structure made for a fascinating read. I’m all in for the next book in the series, Split Second. 4.5 stars

The Challenge of Sustaining Magnificence
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
At a hundred pages in, I was completely enamored by this beautiful, achingly bittersweet story. Through the second act, the story got a little same-y and could have used a twist, but the writing was strong, and the dual-POV structure worked really well. All the Bright Places is a moving story with deep philosophical themes and memorable main characters. 4 stars

 –Eve Messenger