Song of the Beast


Carol Berg


Fantasy / Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

June 18, 2004

his story started out quite well. Our hero, Aidan, has been for the past 17 years suffering gruesome torture at the hands of the sadistic jailer, Goryx; Aidan is forgotten by the world (despite, being related to the king) and has never been told why he is confined. In the 1st chapter, Aidan is released - dumped outside the prison. The explanation for his unexpected freedom is not provided, but he immediately flees and tries to disappear into the countryside. Aidan rescues a trollop, Callia, from the amorous attack of a dragonrider, and she responds by sheltering and healing him. The Dragonriders show up, Aidan has to flee, and Callia is slaughtered (well, so much for that love interest!)

So far, so good. Berg describes a fantasy world where multiple kingdoms and races are at constant war. The balance of power is controlled by the Dragonriders. Perched upon these mighty firebreathing beasts, each kingdom uses its dragons as super assault weapons, against which ordinary swords and spears are useless. Aidan was a musician before his confinement, a gentle genius of song and music - before he was confined, Aidan roamed the known world singing to all. Why would anyone want him imprisoned and tortured so cruelly?

Narim is an Elhim, one of the lower class races. He befriends and hides Aidan while the Dragonriders search. The rest of the Elhim take great risks to aid him - it is clear they believe Aidan is more than an ordinary lost soul. It is one of the unfortunate plot staples of the fantasy genre that the heroes are always MORE THAN THEY SEEM. (Frodo is heroic precisely because he ISN'T anyone special, just an ordinary hobbit who shoulders an amazing burden. But I digress.)

Song of the Beast is told in first person. Unfortunately, Berg doesn't stick to one narrator - 250 pages into the book, Aidan's viewpoint is discarded and Lara takes up the narrative. (there were a few brief chapters told by Narim before this point, but basically the story has been told entirely from Aidan's viewpoint). I think the story went downhill once Lara tried to carry the tale. She isn't as believable or sympathetic. Plot holes appear, and by the time the book ends on page 460, I was disappointed. Perhaps rating this book with 3 stars is too generous, but I did like the first half.

One trouble with stories driven by a plot thread where only-the-hero-can-save-the-world is that there is no plan B. If they have been waiting 500 years for someone like Aidan to show up and rescue the dragons, why haven't they developed a plan B? What if Aidan had died under Goryx's evil jailer skills? If Dragonriders live in tents, disdaining fixed structures, how come Goryx, a dragonrider, spends 17 years along with Aidan, inside a dragonrider prison, which is built with stone walls? If Aidan is trying to hide, why doesn't he use a name other than Aidan? How does the evil mastermind manage to get Aidan locked in that dragonrider prison, and then get him released? I think I was most disappointed with the deus-ex-machina rescue of Lara and Aidan at the novel's end on the shore, when the bad guys are closing in.

Romantic Times gives a favorable review to Song of the Beast. I think Carol Berg's work is meant to appeal to readers of romance and fantasy - but the Lara / Aidan tension doesn't seem to work, despite the ballroom scene (a nice scene, but it is the only one with a "romance novel" feel - the rest of the novel the sparks from the Lara / Aidan relationship fail to ignite. Aidan and poor murdered Callie had more possibities.

A final protest: if removing the dragon's from their forced servitude as weapons of war will upset the balance of power among all the kingdoms, leading to civil war and the deaths of tens of thousands, shouldn't Aidan at least consider whether or not freeing the dragons is a good thing? If you could save one child, but a thousand innocents died because of your actions, would you still do it? It seems Aidan ought to at least pause to reflect on the chaos that will result.