Magpie’s Song: Vivid, well-written prose

Magpie’s Song by Allison Pang fantasy book reviewsMagpie’s Song by Allison Pang fantasy book reviewsMagpie’s Song by Allison Pang

Magpie’s Song (2017) is the beginning of a new series by Allison Pang, and it’s an interesting blend of genres. There’s a dash of steampunk, a dollop of dystopia, and even a pinch of faerie lore. When I started reading, I was skeptical that all of this would work well together, but Pang pulls it off, and creates an interesting world that I want to know more about.

BrightStone is a steampunky, gritty city whose inhabitants are ruled from above — literally — by the Meridians, a technologically advanced society living on an island that floats above BrightStone. The citizens of BrightStone, for the most part, eke out an impoverished existence, and no one is as downtrodden as the Moon Children. The Moon Children, half-breed offspring of a Meridian and a BrightStone dweller, are outcast by everyone and thought of as sin-eaters. And they’re immune to a plague called the Rot, and thus subject to being “Tithed.” Moon Children who are Tithed are chosen to lead Rot victims into the dreaded Pits, and none are ever seen again.

In this world, we meet Raggy Maggy, aka Mags, aka Magpie. She and her best friend are scavenging one night when they discover both a tiny clockwork dragon and a dead Meridian body, and their lives change forever. On the run from the fearsome Inquestors, Maggy teams up with an unlikely group of allies and begins to learn some of Meridion’s dirty little secrets. Reluctantly, she is drawn into a dangerous conspiracy.

Magpie’s Song starts with a bang of scrambling-on-rooftops action that never really lets up, and the prose is well-written and gives the reader a vivid sense of this unique world. The world is so complicated, though, that this first book is largely set-up. About a third of the way through, I got the idea that the plot was going to revolve around Maggy going to a specific place, and then at about the 80% mark, I realized there wasn’t enough book left for her to resolve the current crisis and explore that specific place — that’ll be in the next installment, Magpie’s Fall. I also couldn’t always get a good grip on Maggy as a character; her upbringing would tend to make her distrustful, but then once in a while she’d trust someone whom I was screaming at her not to trust. But I have to give Pang credit for making me care enough to scream!

The ending was one of the best parts for me; Maggy lets both her vengeful and altruistic sides out to play in a dramatic sequence that nicely sets up book two. I will be reading further in THE IRONHEART CHRONICLES to find out what happens next!

I would classify THE IRONHEART CHRONICLES as New Adult, if you’ll pardon the jargon — Maggy is nineteen, and Magpie’s Song deals more frankly with sex and violence than is usual for YA, but there’s a definite coming-of-age feel about the story too.

Published August 2017. In the slums of BrightStone, Moon Children are worth less than the scrap they must collect to survive. It doesn’t matter that these abandoned half-breeds are part-Meridian with their ancestors hailing from the technologically advanced city that floats above the once-thriving, now plague-ridden BrightStone. Instead they are rejected by both their ancestral societies and forced to live on the outskirts of civilization, joining clans simply to stay alive. Not to mention their role as Tithe, leading the city’s infected citizens deep into the Pits where their disease can be controlled. Nineteen-year-old Raggy Maggy is no different, despite the mysterious heart-shaped panel that covers her chest. Or at least she wasn’t… Not until her chance discovery of a Meridian-built clockwork dragon—and its murdered owner. When the Inquestors policing the city find Maggy at the scene of the crime, she quickly turns into their prime suspect. Now she’s all anyone can talk about. Even her clan leader turns his back on her, leading her to rely on an exiled doctor and a clanless Moon Child named Ghost to keep her hidden. In return, all she has to do is help them find a cure for the plague they believe was not exactly accidental. Yet doing so might mean risking more than just her life. It also might be the only key to uncovering the truth about the parents—and the past—she knows nothing about.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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One comment

  1. I know a few younger readers who might enjoy this — and I’m glad to know you liked this book enough to keep reading the series! Thanks, Kelly!

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