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Song of the Beast

by Carol Berg

(Roc, 2003.)

Review by Elizabeth Barrette

cover scanFour stars.

For those who have the gift, creativity is an essential part of life. Aidan MacAllister delighted the kingdom with his enchanting voice. He could no more stop singing, he thought, than he could stop breathing. Imagine holding your breath for seven years ... or seventeen ...

When the story opens, Aidan is a shattered wreck of a man: voice rusted from disuse, hands crippled by torture. Wherever he goes, the Dragon Riders follow him to kill anyone who may have encountered him. Aidan doesn't even know what he might have done that cost his freedom, his music, and everyone he cared about. But he still hears music in the trumpeting of dragons, so he sets out to investigate what could be the cause of the Dragon Riders' enmity for him. What Aidan discovers will leave his country as much a wreck as his body.

Carol Berg has a knack for writing dark, bitter fantasy. It's the perfect thing to read when you're feeling sorry for yourself. She takes the traditional motif of dragons and dragon riders, and gives it an utterly warped history. Characters you think are decent turn out to have appalling hidden agendas. Characters you think are unbearable sneak back and save the day when nobody's looking.

Song of the Beast tells a wrenching tale of loyalty and betrayal, love and music. Romance fans will enjoy the contrast between human and nonhuman relationships. Dark fantasy fans will appreciate these dragons and the tribes of the Ridemark. There's also enough wicked politics that readers who like court intrigue should give it a peek. Highly recommended.

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