by BETH HUDSON
What is it about?
A reluctant king. A legendary harp. A city divided.
Traedis Atenel never expected to find herself a king. When she fled her city and her family, all she wanted was to become a bard and make her own way in the world. Now, touched by strange magic and harrowed by imprisonment, she rules the city she once hated.
Despised by its people, she embarks on a mission to reform what was once known as the City of Assassins. After all, she has spoken with gods, walked with dragons, and learned the mysteries of bardic magic. When a demon comes calling, it reawakens a curse that could destroy Traedis and her city.
Supported by her sister Vandeyr, a former assassin, and with the aid of an enchanted harp, Traedis uncovers long-buried secrets and forges alliances where she least expects them. But elemental spirits, ghosts, and hostile powers stand in her way. Some of them will help her. Some will oppose her.
Some of them are certain to be from her own family.
I had the absolute pleasure of receiving an ARC of “Goldsong” by the amazing Beth Hudson. This book truly astounded, it was incredible! After reading the novel, I could not believe I had not heard more about Hudson – an experienced fantasy author – and her outstanding work!
In “Goldsong”, Hudson has woven an inventive and distinct universe full of unique kingdoms, diverse peoples, deep and ancient magic, gods, demons, prophecy, magical instruments and weapons, and all the elements a reader would ever want in any fantasy novel.
Hudson’s writing is atmospheric, but never overdone. Her prose is as lyrical as the harp that is the talisman of King Traedis’ magic power (that power known as “falmyros”, in the novel). The writing is simply delightful and always appropriately descriptive, whether it be with respect to how a character looks, the setting, or the mood / tone Hudson attempts to convey in a particular passage. I found myself re-reading certain paragraphs just for the joy of it, hence why it took me a bit longer to finish the entire book.
The story revolves around the aforementioned female king, who is the heroine of the book, and a courageous, thoughtful, and extremely likeable character. Traedis is cerebral, kind, and puts her responsibilities as monarch above all else. Although many readers tire of truly “good” and noble heroes, I certainly did not tire of this one! I loved this protagonist, and her benevolence and altruism shone through, making her easy to root for. One of the things I enjoyed the most about Traedis was her humility – she knows she doesn’t know everything, and needs to keep learning, and seek help when necessary, if she is to triumph over adversity.
Traedis has been imprisoned prior to her ascension to the throne of the kingdom of Tolin, but her troubles have not ceased by any means with her recent freedom, and new sovereignty – if anything they have just begun. Tolin is weak from a military standpoint, and enjoys a fragile peace, surrounded by far more powerful rivals. The spectre of a powerful demon lurking beneath Tolin threatens to obliterate the realm at any time, and a benevolent savior-God who helped save the city previously has been destroyed. The immediate family of Traedis are mostly conniving enemies, with the exception of her sister Vandeyr, who is a redoubtable warrior and assassin, the commander of Traedis’ personal bodyguard, and one of the king’s closest friends and allies, albeit a prickly one. Traedis must deal with political intrigue, battle malevolent deities, ward off feckless suitors for her hand, and stay alive in the face of plots against her life, while trying to save her kingdom.
The book is lush with compelling characters of all levels of importance to the plot. Consequently, I would have wished for a list of these excellent secondary and tertiary characters to be included, especially to keep track of the various gods / demons, and their powers, and the nations and their nobility, but that is the only minor criticism I can find of this superlative novel.
If you enjoy an extremely well-crafted system of magic and magical elements, then you will certainly revel in “Goldsong”. While there is no real large-scale battle pieces in the novel, that certainly did not diminish from my reading enjoyment, as all the mythology and mysticism certainly compensated for the overall lack of war and battle-excitement. Hudson keeps the reader engaged, and truly invested in what happens to Traedis and Tolin. There is tension and suspense throughout the novel, and a palpable sense of danger / impending doom that will keep the reader page-turning to the end.
I highly recommend “Goldsong” to fantasy fans, as a fantastic read! Kudos to Beth Hudson, and I cant’ wait to read her next book!