The Master Song – Andrew Maloney

16th October 2014

I received this book through the Goodreads giveaway, in exchange for an honest review.  Out of all the First Reads books I have received, The Master Song has been the most enjoyable so far.

Having reluctantly travelled with his family and best friend Stanley to Ireland for a family wedding, amateur botanist and self-confessed nerd Nolan suspects it will be a long boring summer spent with relatives he doesn’t like, especially his stuck-up cousin Genevieve.  Her mother is getting married to tomboy Quinn’s father, meaning she will become a step-cousin to Nolan and his little brother Emery.  The wedding is to be hosted by Quinn’s grandmother at her grand house in the Irish countryside, surrounding by spacious gardens and forests.

Quinn’s grand-mother Audrey is rather eccentric, and upon learning she may be dying, passes to Quinn a mysterious diamond pendant and a journal.  A storm brews at the coming of dusk – known as Blue Time - and Audrey is spotted running out into the storm towards a cairn.  Quinn (wearing the pendant), Nolan, Emery, Genevieve and Stanley all follow her, and they are astonished as a rift opens to another world, whereupon a giant tree man appears, seeking Audrey for a quest in another world.  Inadvertently the five children are also pulled into “across the veil” with them when something attacks the tree as the rift is closing.

The children are separated during the crossover to the hidden world, and each soon learns that the pendant worn by Quinn can unlock something called the Love Verse, one of seven verses to The Master Song.  A number of otherworld creatures are sworn to protect it from falling into the wrong hands, with some evil beings intent on stealing the verse and using the song for their own nefarious gains.  The children must find one another first, then they must toughen up if they hope to survive long enough to save the Love Verse and find a way home.

The world which has been created by Andrew Maloney here is fantastically detailed and imaginative, drawing on Celtic mythology as well as embellishing and indeed bettering some typical fantasy hallmarks.  The Coeduine – as the tree men are called – rely on songs for various reasons; to Awaken living things, which gives them greater intelligence and sentience, to allow translation between those who speak different languages, or to heal those injured in battle. 

The good creatures range from the tree-like humanoids Coeduine to the anthropomorphised animals such as tigers and rhinos, from the adorable and deadly flower warriors of the Brethren, or the highwaymen-esque band of frogs and lizards, all walking upright on 2 legs, talking and able to fight with weapons, and displaying their own unique characteristics.

As to be expected, some of these awakened beings are Corrupted and become evil, intent on helping the main antagonist Basisolc unlock the verses of The Master Song in his own personal pursuit of power.  They often take the form of sterotypical evil animals such as spiders, snakes, and ravens, but also animals usually associated with good such as deer, horses, Coeduine, flowers etc.  The Corrupted Coeduine have their own songs which can poison, silence or put someone to sleep.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so I am pleased to know the story doesn’t end here.  In fact it is just the beginning, and the thought of spending more hours in the hidden world is exciting.  The concept of children being pulled into another world and becoming involved in a struggle between good and evil may not seem on the surface unique, but this is probably the best example of this kind of story I have read in my life.  The author himself tips the hat to various fantasy and video game influences, but on so many occasions, this novel completely surpasses those it deems have inspired its inception.

No magic wardrobe is required in this novel; the vast world is already infinitely more interesting, the characters so much more intriguing and refreshing, and the plot so much easier to understand.  This book, without question should be made into a movie; visually it could be epic, and I REALLY want to see the characters on screen.  Alternatively a graphic novel or illustrated version of the book could serve the same purpose; seeing the beautiful world Maloney has crafted in all its glory.  The story deserves it.

Rating 5/5 stars