Spellsong Cycle by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
The Spellsong trilogy is probably the weakest set of books by a normally excellent writer. The differences in style, pacing, and characters are so at odds from his other books that I strongly suspect this was written by his wife, or someone else, and then only slightly edited by Modesitt.
The main character is a female opera singer who is transported to a land where song is a magical power. She continuously uses this power to wipe out thousands of armsmen and lords, and then spends several pages after each battle blaming chauvenistic attitudes for 'forcing' her to kill. After the first couple of battles, the anti-male sections become tiresome. Never, in over 1500 pages, does she consider any of the reasons of why females might be subservient in a fuedal society, or that when she replaces male lords with females she has selfishly set them up as lightning rods for disaster. All women in the series who are supportive of male leadership are said to be evil and scheming, and the only neighboring 'good' kingdom is (unsurprisingly) a matriarchy.
Although she was supposedly a professional operetic singer and voice teacher in her normal universe, she never uses more than two songs (flame and arrows), and spends hours modifying 4 to 10 lines of simple lyrics to each occasion. Only on one occassion does she find a non-deadly approach (destroy the weapons), and she then follows it up by flaying the lord with fire whips until he dies.
The writing itself is sloppy and full of mistakes. As an example, a lord tells her that a specific guard told him she was awake, and yet a few paragraphs later she mentions she left that specific guard at a keep a hundred miles away. Her character often uses phrases that are not understood by the natives (such as 'check on it') and then a native she has never met will use the same phrase in normal conversation. When she (once) destroys all the blades in a keep somehow the lord and his brother yet retain theirs, giving her an excuse to kill them.
As a faithful reader of Modesitt, and having read his other series 3 to 4 times each, I struggled through the Spellsong series, and now regret that I wasted my time reading something that I believe someone else wrote (his wife?), and then published using his good name.
Submitted by Eva
I've read and re-read the two first novels of the Spellsong Cycle and found them to be interesting, sometimes captivating and often irritating. I enjoyed the world of Erde depicted in the novels, it seemed like a real place not connected to our world but able to stand on its own. Many of the characters were also interesting, especially the officers that became sort of a supporting cast around the heroine.
Unfortunately I got a bit irritated with the main character, Anna. She was human in a sense that she wasn't perfect, though for some reason she was considered to be an astonishing beauty in the fantasy world of Erde while having been barely passable in our world. Her greatest flaw, in my oppinion as a reader, was her constant whining about how opressed women were in Erde. As a woman I can agree that it is frustrating to see a male dominated society but she never became, in my opinion, a strong female leader. Rather, she became a strong leader who happened to be a woman. And one who oddly enough surrounded herself with mainly men. The only female she had close was more of an associate than a friend. So to me she was never a favourite.
I found the spell song in the novels to be fascinating and it was easy to accept the concept of singing magic. It gave a plausible reason why Anna from our world became such a powerful sorceress and it also created a limit to the power of magic.
All in all it was a good read. I will certainly find the next book in the cycle and read that too.
Submitted by Emma Baumann
I read The Soprano Sorceress and I loved the plot that was created as the base for this novel. The magical world of Erde, being governed completely by the powers of music and the sound that voices make.
The characters were easy to discern and at first I (being a woman and a vocal performance major) identified with some of Anna's frustrations and difficulties; but as I read more, I became extremely disappointed with the lack of understanding of the female mind with which Mr. Modesitt choose to shape his lead character. This fact alone is the chief problem with the story and how it is told.
Anna comes across as a selfish, self-righteous woman who alternatively hates and dislikes, herself and all those around her. She has an extremely jaded view- point of life and anything to do with living. Anna's character seems to be told by the husband of such a woman, rather than the woman herself.
Not only does Anna become the most powerful person on the magical world in a matter of weeks: All to quickly, Anna becomes tedious and annoying to read. One might find oneself skipping and skimming over Anna's tiring rants just to get through the book.
Hoping the novel would get better, I continued my reading and was even more disappointed with the way this story was brought to a close.
The last few chapters seemed hurried and not well thought out. The end was not really and end, but a launching point for the series The Spellsong Cycle, which I can only hope will get better from here.
Submitted by Raj
The soprano sorceress is a dismal book. It takes aspects of all the authors other books and combines them into a hodgepodge of plot and characters. Nothing really seems to fit and all the characters are one or 2 dimensional.There are so many contradictions of character behavior it seems unlikely that this book was written: more like derived from an algorithm. The idea of singing and music to generate magic was interesting: however it was just ORDER and CHAOS with different names.The motivation of the main character - to prevent another form of NAZI-like take over of Erde (the particular place where the protagonist Anna finds herself) is dubious at best. However when her particular form of female chauvinism takes full flight, she levels armies, puts magic spells on anyone that thinks different to her forcing them into submission, immolates the local gentry at will, and says to herself "I have no choice" as if that is some kind of justification. This is bordering on the incredible.I couldn't finish the book. I read to page 541 and decided that I hated Anna so much I wanted to see her fail. She had so much become the little despot that she so desperately wanted to avoid taking over Erde. Every other character in the book was someone she held in contempt, even Daffyd (her main supportive character) from time to time. She was suspicious of every one, and only trusted "feelings" which is quite insulting to both male and female RATIONAL readers out there. I could go on - but considering I couldn't finish the book - actions speak louder than words.Singularly disappointing.
Page - 1