2022 Reading Review: Sistersong

June has come and gone—and here I am, just finishing my 2-Woman Book Club pick for June 😳 Oops!

But luckily since there’s only two of us, we’re not too harsh with one another when it comes to completing our readings. It’s more just an excuse to buy each other fantasy novels.

For June, I chose Sistersong by Lucy Holland. I don’t remember where I heard of this book, but I was drawn in because it was a retelling of a Celtic song and set in an ancient Celtic world. Retellings are pretty popular right now, and I enjoy Celtic things; I currently live in Scotland, so I was ready for some ancient world Celts.

This book had some great moments. Good story and round characters. Even a “OH, I GET THIS REFERENCE” moment.

So without further ado, here’s my review of Sistersong. As always, spoilers will be limited to the Opinions section—but I’m trying to keep that as spoiler-free as possible as well. I’ll give you a heads-up if there are any in that section when we get there!

Story

King Cador of Dumnonia has three children, and they cannot be more different. But each plays their own very vital role in the survival of their nation and their family’s own connection to the land.

Once, the king and the land were one, and this union allowed for magic to be used: for protection, for food, for the betterment of their kingdom. But the king has distanced himself from the land, and the magic is fading.

The arrival of a famous magician awakens the magic in the king’s children. And their differences become more prominent with secrets threatening to spill. With the magician’s help, perhaps they can save their kingdom from the enemies that threaten them.

A story with love, betrayal, and magic all woven together.

Characters

Keyne. Cador’s middle child. He seeks to be recognized as the king’s son, but battles daily with a rigid society that does not accept who he truly is.

Riva. Eldest daughter. Riva struggles with her own self pity, managing the scars of a fire long ago, but carries the wisdom and skills of a healer.

Sinne. Youngest daughter. With beauty and song at her disposal, she yearns for an adventure and a handsome stranger to whisk her away.

Myrdhin. Famed magician of the realm. Myrdhin comes and goes through his years, but now returns to Dumnonia. He finds the magic of the land even weaker than before. But he also finds that while the king as lost his connection to the land, his children may carry the spark to revive the union between man and earth.

Tristan. A warrior who comes to Dumnonia a stranger, but wins the trust of the people—and the heart of the king’s daughter. But is he all that he seems, or is there more to this warrior than others can see?

Writing

I’m struggling to write this section of the review, as I don’t really know how to describe the writing of Sistersong. It’s good, and I enjoyed the rhythm and flow. The chapters weren’t overly long, so I could complete them relatively quickly—and it meant they were good stopping points.

Strangely, it did almost read like a tale of the ancient Celts. Which seems like an obvious statement to make; that’s exactly what the book is.

But what I mean is that, while it’s a modern retelling and the language is modernized, it still does have that feel—that vibe, if you will–of an ancient Celtic story. So, the writing fits with the story, and I think that enhances the story overall.

When you get into the book, it really does hit those important marks. You’ll fall into the story, the world, and the writing, and it makes the entire reading journey that much better.

Will You Like This?

Do you enjoy retellings of old tales and myths?
Do you like enjoy stories set in an ancient Celtic world?
And are you looking for more books that feature trans characters?

Then Sistersong might be right up your alley! It’s natural and flows at a good pace. Definitely worth a shot if you’re looking for something like my above suggestions!

Opinion (Spoilers)

I’m gonna have a hard time talking about my opinion on this one. Because I liked it. I genuinely enjoyed the characters and how full they were. The story was engaging and interesting. The writing flowed really well. And, as a pagan, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed seeing the connection to the earth and land, the magic within, and the deities spoken about.

My Conflicts

But I did struggle to get into it, and that led me to having some slight issues. As a pagan, the early chapters—where we see scenes of pagan deities being shamed and called evil, and women being told they need to be cleansed because they are evil and sinful—hit me hard. Every time I got through a chapter, I had to put the book down because of how those scenes awakened my own pagan and feminine rage. Because they are familiar words to hear.

Also, without giving any spoilers away, I feel like I figured out the ending very early. That’s not a slight on the author or the story. But I did have several moments of yelling at the book, having solved the mystery before everyone else. When the mystery was revealed to the characters, I remember screaming, “FINALLY”.

But:

I stress: these are not flaws in the book or story or even with the author. But to me personally, they caused some conflicts while I was reading. That’s my own issue—and that’s why this section exists (I’m trying to remind myself it’s okay to have an opinion 😂).

But I also had great moments with the book. Towards the end, there was a scene occurring that was a kinda messed up. I remember wondering what the hell I was reading as I continued. But then my own knowledge of the original story (that this retelling was based on) kicked in, and I threw the book on the floor and yelled, “OMG, I GET IT.” It was an exciting moment. And then the outcome of that, where you see why these characters did this messed up thing and what it reveals, again I was just like, “JUST LIKE THE ORIGINAL, I GET IT NOW!”

I love having moments like that.

And I share that so you guys can know that I had moments of genuine joy while reading this. I did enjoy this book immensely.

Rating

I’m giving this one 3 and a half stars.

There’s a part of me that feels like I should give it more—maybe the full 4. After a few more days of reflecting on it, I kinda want to give it the full 4.

But I recognize I finished this book right after The Near Witch, and I devoured that book. So, knowing that I started Sistersong before I started The Near Witch, and I kept putting it down and forgetting it for a bit, I think that’s contributing to my not-a-4 rating. That, along with the two issues I noted in the Opinions section, I’m taking off that half-star.

Those are my big issues, and they’re just personal, “in-the-moment” issues. I would put it down and forget it until I really got into it. The triggering that occurred in those early chapters that caused me to put it down. And even because of the few times I felt like I solved the mystery well before the characters.

I wanted to be lost in it, and once I was determined to finish it, I did really get swept away. But because it’s so near to my reading of The Near Witch, I’m too close to how much I loved that book. If I had gotten through Sistersong before I read The Near Witch, I might’ve given it that full 4.

But who knows? A reread in the future when I’m in a different mind frame might sway me.

Overerall, I 100% would recommend Sistersong. Great characters, a beautiful tale, and great writing. All things we love when finding fiction worth reading!

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