A dark, magic-tinged fantasy tale which is both timely and intense…
Verbeek returns with this poignant and engrossing second installment in the Songs of Si’Empra series as her adolescent protagonist fights for her people while struggling with her inner demons. With Redel’s constant mental degeneration as he starts losing touch with reality, the beautiful, cold, rugged land of Si’Empara has come under threat: its societies are confused, and its landscape periodically roils, uncontrolled. Ellen who is still trying to deal with her inner demons soon realizes the need for her to take on her role as the princess of Si’Empara seriously in the wake of her step-brother’s continuous mental deterioration. At the center of Verbeek’s plot is the adolescent in Ellen, who is continuously grappling with extreme mental anguish as she tries to come to terms with the physical abuse that she is forced to suffer at her step-brother’s hands. Her way of coping is painful self-harming. Verbeek deftly portrays Ellen’s extreme mental trauma, her self-doubts, and her convictions as the latter takes on tremendous measures to mute her pain. Rosa, as Ellen’s mute companion, is a triumph of a character. Her actions will not only resonate with pet lovers but also raise relevant questions regarding her mistress’s methods of dealing with the pain. Verbeek’s portrayal of Redel’s gradual descend into insanity shows her panache for creating highly realistic characters: his transformation from a ruthless ruler to a religious fanatic is achieved brilliantly. Verbeek skillfully executes intrigue and drama while masterfully evoking the complexity of her characters’ emotions, particularly Ellen’s intense longing to feel normal (toward the end) and Redel’s deterioration into a full-blown maniac. The blend of the contemporary and a fantasy world makes for an intriguing setting. The plot is constructed brilliantly without any loose spots; the mood is intense, and the story moves briskly, keeping readers thoroughly invested until they turn the last page. With crisp prose and vivid descriptions, Verbeek constructs a fantasy tale that explores present-day conversations about rape, misogyny, and victims’ extreme mental and emotional trauma. Frank discussions of self-harm make for some cringeworthy moments, making the book suitable for more mature readers (15 +). A compelling story and cliff hanger finale build anticipation for the next book in this planned series. At once a celebration of feminine power and a powerful portrayal of sexual abuse victims’ extreme mental trauma, this story will stay with readers long after the final page.
(Songs of Si’Empra Book 2)
by Miriam Verbeek
Pub date February 4, 2020