Elspeth Cooper

The Wild Hunt, Book 1

Gollancz (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09615-8

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Gair has struggled with the music he hears for more than half his life. To hear the song is a death sentence, and when he is discovered, he spends three months under torture before being miraculously spared, exiled from the place he calls home. The stranger Alderan takes him under his wing, rescuing him from those who would hunt him down and taking him far from his pursuers. Now in a place where the song is not forbidden, Gair discovers his talents are more than he imagined, and this new place offers so much more for his unique skills. He finds friendship, love, and a home. But when all that is threatened, can Gair survive what is to come?

While this book is perfectly readable, I struggled a bit with it. For me, it just seemed a bit generic, with nothing truly fresh or challenging about it in terms of the fantasy world and structure. Gair is one of those characters who does everything excellently, with very little effort, to the point where it doesn’t even make sense some of the time (I couldn’t fathom how he had perfected and practised shape changing when in the religious cloister…). He’s quite likeable, but the most interesting characters where the peripheral ones. Masen, the Guardian, Tanith, the Healer, and the sea-elfs, were much more intriguing. Elderly Ansel, leader of the Knights, Sorchal and Arlin, who Gair spars with, and even Aysha, who seems a little mad, all contributed in small parts to the narrative but were much more engaging than Gair himself. It’s difficult to say if any of them will play larger roles in books that follow Songs of the Earth; I really hope they do.

The other issue I had was the lack of cohesion in the plot – we’re given hints of backstory and loops of the ongoing narrative, but not enough to get a big picture of where we are being taken. There was not enough culmination of events in this book to satisfy, and while the author is no doubt working on tying up plot threads in future books, unfortunately the lack of ending in this one left me not wanting more, but just feeling annoyed that I didn’t get enough information.

It’s not a bad book, really, and a reader newly come to the fantasy genre will most likely enjoy it very much, as it stands up as a good use of exemplary fantasy tropes. For me though, it was a little tired and a bit frustrating, and I wanted somewhat more.