The Last Song Before Night


Ilana Meyer


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

November 29, 2019

espite the plentitude of established fantasy authors producing excellent books these days, it is still fun to pick up a book by a previously unknown author and see what wonders develop. But not every new author is terrific, and that is how I feel about The Last Song Before Night, by Ilene Meyer. It's not a bad book, but it isn't riveting either. I think this meant to be the start of a series, but I'm not interested enough to pick up the next volume

The Last Song Before Night is a world of bards and magic. The heroine is Lin, who desires to be a bard, even though female bards are forbidden. Lin plans to attend the Midsummer Masque at the Court Poetís, where she hopes to win a contest that will allow her to be a poet. The greatest seer in the land, Valanir Ocune, tells Lin that a plague known as the Red Death is again ravaging the south lands. This means that forbidden magic is being practiced. The only way to defeat this plague is to walk the path of Edrien Letrell and learn forgotten magics. Not sure why Ocune picks Lin to reveal this important tidbit. And then, for reasons that remained puzzling to me, Ocune sings a forbidden song at the Masque, which of course leads to pandamonium and his arrest. So Lin doesn't get a chance to win the contest.

My biggest complaint with this book is the climatic ending. It seems much too rushed. Lin is supposed to be a on a quest to find Edrien Letrellís Path, which will reveal secret lost magic. But we get details of this later - Lin uses knowledge learned from the path, but the reader never sees her discover that knowledge. It seemed to me that suddenly Lin knew things that we did not. I also was disappointed by the arch-villain, Court Poet Lord Gerrard. Gerrard stays so far in the background for most of the novel, he is basically invisible (except for his corruption of Marlen, who seems to betray his life long friend Darien for reasons that seemed implausble), until at the end Gerrard suddenly erupts with foul deeds of black magic and ruthless evil. There is a lot of story about relationships between Lin, Darian, her evil brother Rayen, the vixen Marilla, the wealthy merchant daughter Rianna, and the hapless but goodhearted Ned - all of these characters interact, and they seem like real people. But there is a Red Death coming, there ought to be some urgency here. And why does the super bard Valanir Ocune have to be so cryptic? Why can't the wise one be straightforward for once, why does every wiseman have be obscure in word and deed? Defeating a necromancer ought to inspire some focus and sense of purpose. But the characters in this book just seem to meander around.

I liked the characters. The world building was pretty good. But the plotting seemed weak, heading off on tangents that ultimately didn't advance the plot. I think I'll skip the rest of the trilogy.