Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sing the Four Quarters by Tanya Huff

Reading SING THE FOUR QUARTERS took me back to my high school days of gaming, when I spent weeks playing Sword of Mana. I love books with elemental magic systems and Huff's is particularly interesting because here, the world focuses on bards. Bards, often mocked as being a weak class in RPGs, are all-powerful here: they have elemental powers, which they activate through song, and act as enforcers, prosecutors, and town criers, which I found super unique and interesting.

SING THE FOUR QUARTERS features extremely casual LGBT+ rep. The heroine is bi/pan and pregnant, and we see her in a relationship with both a man and a woman. Her longtime love interest appears to be a lesbian, one of her close friends is gay, and there are a few queer side characters who appear, as well as a villain who is bi/pan. None of them are fetishized, and whether good or evil, their sexuality is purely incidental and doesn't define their characters. It's so refreshing to see a magic world where being LGBT+ is so normalized, and I'm sure a lot of my queer friends are going to be thrilled with the rep here.

The plot is also really good. I've been on a 90s fantasy binge lately because something about the books is so hopeful. They're the perfect blend of hopeful and dangerous, with plots centering around court intrigue, but filled with characters who are flawed but good. Here, the heroine, Annice, finds out that the man who she slept with and who got her pregnant, Pjerin, is going to be sentenced to death as a traitor. Bards have the power to act as human lie detectors and Pjerin's treason seemed inarguable under oath, but she can't believe him capable of sowing the treachery they claim.

At the same time, her being pregnant is an act of treason in and of itself since she's an ex-princess and her brother declared her titles forfeit and declared that her getting pregnant without permission would be punishable by death. Theron, the king, her brother, seems like he's going to be evil when we first meet him, but he's actually just arrogant and proud as all get out, and has never forgiven his sister for undermining him in her plans to become a bard and making him look an opportunistic fool in their father's last moments. So it was cool to see how the plot totally rebounded off the expected tropes.

Finding out the secret behind Pjerin's treason, and watching Annice conspire with her lover, Stasya, to go against their empire to save an innocent man from death and stop a treasonous plot from hatching before war could break out was a total ball. I also loved the elemental sprites in this book, called the kigh, who are fickle and childish, but full of incredible power. The court intrigue, the suspicion of magic, and the schemes upon schemes upon schemes were a total guilty pleasure, and I think anyone who enjoys Mercedes Lackey and Sharon Shinn will love reading this series. Currently books one and two in this series are free to read if you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, too!

3.5 out of 5 stars

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