Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: Song of Six Realms

Author: Judy I. Lin

Publisher: Titan Books

Song of Six Realms

Reviewed by: Mikaela Silk

Other details: Hardback £14.85

Song of Six Realms by Judy I. Lin

Mikaela Silk

Xue is tired of her secluded life in the entertainment house. Playing her quin is the one thing that truly brings her joy, but she cannot help but wonder at the world outside, the one her Uncle traveled. Despite this, she is wary when a stranger offers to buy out her contract. Only when he admits to knowing her Uncle and that he is investigating his death does Xue agree to risk the safe life she already has. But would she have still agreed if the stranger had revealed his true identity as the celestial Duke of Dreams?

I love the character development in this book as we get to watch Xue grow from a mostly unremarkable orphan to a strong-willed woman to one of the most important women in the six realms. She never reaches for this power, aiming only for freedom and family. Yet, when this power is given, she accepts it and wields it with grace. My only complaint is that her character growth seems almost too smooth at times. It seems to me her character growth is reactive in response to the things that happen to her and around her. It would have been great to see her make purposeful decisions to shape the course of her own future. I would have liked to see her make more mistakes, too, ones that don’t stem from secrets someone else is keeping.

However, it is these secrets that create the languishing tension of the book as Xue gradually uncovers more and more of the mystery that surrounds her and her new home. It is clever the way that many things (and people) aren’t quite what they appear. A couple of characters even have multiple reveals of this nature where their entire personality or agenda is flipped on its head. The only character who never seems to change is Duke Meng; he starts out as kind, clever, and slightly mysterious and does not deviate from these key traits.

The wider world-building in this book is somewhat limited, as Judy I. Lin chooses to focus her creative energies into bringing the smaller details to life. The quin, in particular, seems almost real with the amount of details given. A lot of this realism comes from Xue’s emotional attachment to the instrument; how can it not be real when it means so much? This use of emotions to bring things to life is something that occurs with real effect throughout the book.

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