Songs of Insurrection attracted my attention by it’s beautiful cover, and the fact that I’ve been looking for fantasy story devoid of Western medieval tropes for a change. SOI is a pretty good book. I enjoyed the main characters and the mix of action and intrigue. The main character is an emperor’s daughter named Kaiya, who is an unattractive teen girl. That in itself is something of a novelty. You just don’t come across that too often in novels, especially in main characters. She has a remarkable gift for singing, possessing a voice and talent that far outshine her looks.
There are two other POV characters: Tian and Jie, partners in investigating a conspiracy against the Emperor and his kingdom. They have large enough roles in the novel, but I found myself wishing the book focused more on them than Kaiya. Kaiya comes across as a bit annoying on many occasions, always falling into whatever trap or manipulation she encounters, all the while twirling a lock of her hair. (a habit the author reminds you of over and over again) I liked the idea of Tian’s forensics into the crime scenes, and enjoyed Jie’s determination and fighting/espionage skills. (her habit of sucking her bottom lip also grew annoying, putting Kang in competition with Robert Jordan when it comes to repeated character ticks)
I realize Kaiya is only sixteen and is not used to courtly intrigue, but when the major bulk of the story is hers to shoulder, the expectation is for some maturation to occur over the course of the book. That doesn’t really happen her, which is why I couldn’t enjoy the story as much as I expected. There is also a slew of characters introduced along the way, with few making an impression enough to recall who they were later on the book. I would have preferred less characters with more detail, or the characters to have been given personalities in memorable fashion.
That’s not to say the story is a wash, however. I did enjoy the setting and the details of the mythological world J.C. Kang has created. He put a lot of work into bringing the world to life so that I was able to see it in my mind’s eye; smell the salty air of the bay, be dazzled by the opulence of the Imperial palace. The potential for a saga in Kang’s world is what intrigues me the most, allowing me to give the weaker parts of the story a pass so I can find out what happens next.
I fully understand the pains of bringing a fantasy novel to life and trying to find the balance between explaining the world and characters, and telling the story. Kudos to Kang for bringing his world to fruition. I will definitely continue the series with the next novel.