Song of Silver, Flame Like Night (Song of the Last Kingdom, #1)

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night (Song of the Last Kingdom, #1)
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Release Date
January 03, 2023
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In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation's past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.

"Perfect for fans of The Untamed. I loved it!” —Shelley Parker-Chan, bestselling author of She Who Became the Sun

Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.

The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.

When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.

Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world. 

Now the battle for the Last Kingdom begins.

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1 review
lush and imaginative YA fantasy
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SONG OF SILVER, FLAME LIKE NIGHT is a lush and engaging YA fantasy that sweeps the reader away to a kingdom at war. Lan is a songgirl, working at a teahouse and searching for information about her past. She has vague memories of when she was five and her life before the Elantians destroyed the Last Kingdom and her mother. In her mother's final breaths, she placed a symbol on Lan's wrist that only she can see. While she tries to pay off her contract, she also searches for anything that might tell her what this symbol means.

After an encounter with Elantian Angels (what they call their soldiers), Lan is concerned when they show up in her teahouse, especially since one seems eager to buy her contract. That same night, a Hin practitioner also shows up, intriguing Lan as she fights for her life from the one who purchased her contract - but then an Elantian metalworking magician appears with a vengeance specifically for Lan, recognizing the symbol and wanting whatever her mother had left her.

The Hin practitioner, Zen, helps Lan to escape and they embark on a quest that has great personal meaning to each but also massive implications for the kingdom in its entirety.

What I loved: This was such a lush and imaginative fantasy based on Chinese mythology and folklore. The magic systems, politics, and demons are all brought to life as Lan begins to learn about her heritage and what practitioning means. Following the war and the Elantian victory, most Hin schools were destroyed. One has remained hidden, and it is there that Lan begins to understand what magic means and the importance of balance in life and power. While much of her life has been loss and destruction, it has also taught her about power, sacrifice, and who she wants to be.

Lan and Zen are both compelling characters, and the story gives us sections from each of their perspectives. While they are pulled together like magnets and their history has several parallels, their specific experiences and takeaway messages have diverged. This becomes particularly clear later, in places where they feel like they have no options. The way the past has sculpted them and what they have learned from it was built from cruelty, pain, and loss- but also love, which remains a critical teacher. As they move forward in the midst of change and fear, they each find their own paths, which become juxtaposed in brutal ways, though rooted in mutual understanding.

There are many heavy themes in this book that make it quite pensive and thought-provoking, including around power and the morality of power, war crimes and the difficulty of maintaining power, family, grief/loss, the importance of balance in life, destiny and fate, the lure of negative emotions and fear towards bad decisions, and sacrifice. Lan and Zen have suffered in their pasts, as a consequence of war and the cruelty of the victors. This is a theme throughout their world's history, and the importance of objectors working towards balance and understanding the responsibility of power is one that was necessary before the Elantians as well as with them. Elantians have distorted magic, and they have destroyed the Hin that they didn't understand - even while experimenting on some individuals to try to understand - a twisted method that ripples in history. The quest for power has driven many throughout history, and understanding power, what it means, and the need for balance is a critical discussion throughout the story.

The plot is paced well, giving ample time for the reader to understand as Lan does. The story builds in different ways as the characters evolve, and there are elements of adventuring, discovering, and war at various points in time that keep the readers on their toes. None of the story felt rushed, even towards the end - and there is a bit of a cliffhanger to keep readers eagerly anticipating the next book in the series. While the story is fairly long, the pace felt steady, and it read relatively quickly.

Final verdict: An imaginative and lush story of Chinese mythology and folklore, SONG OF SILVER, FLAME LIKE NIGHT is a compulsive and pensive YA fantasy that will leave the reader gasping for more. Highly recommend for fans of STRIKE THE ZITHER, LAST OF THE TALONS, and SIX CRIMSON CRANES.
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