I am overjoyed to be taking part in the Song of the Far Isles tour today as when I heard the blurb for this book I was so excited!!
Within Song of the Far Isles Nicholas Bowling has composed a bewitching tale of the power of music and memory and the power of a song to stir the soul, sea, sky and earth, I was hooked.
On the Isle of Little Drum, everyone is born with an instrument that will never leave their side even in death, because on Little Drum, music and honouring of ancestors through hearth songs means the ancestor ghasts are among the living.
Oran is the most gifted musician the island has seen in generations, music is in her heartbeat and she can charm the most incredible music from the simplest of songs… and she has been learning a far more powerful form from the mysterious Bard.
But when the notorious Red Duchess comes into port and declares the end of music and instruments are to be surrendered Oran cannot sit by and let music be torn from the world, and the fading of the ghasts into the Great Silence, so she sets a plan in motion.
‘She played unthinkingly. Never needed to rehearse. Never needed to read the music. Could pick up a tune and turn it into something that brought tears to the eyes before she’d even heard the whole thing once through.’
Song of the Far Isles is a tale of passion, for your craft, for power and to prove oneself juxtaposed with the heady dangers of ambition and pride within a gorgeously supernatural fantasy setting evoking a mythical Scottish land and seascape.
As a trained musician and admitted lover of all things mythic I loved the way Nicholas brought mythological powers of music akin with magic into the novel.
Music moves us, it is a power, it calls to our most primal and higher selves, the soundtrack to all acts of humanity from pipers in war to funeral marches.
There can surely be no one on Earth who has felt the force of a beat thrumming through their body and at some time not wished to move, their body compelled to keep time or invoke their voices sing, hum or scream along.
Music can reduce the hardest of hearts to tears and empower the most vulnerable of souls to be strong, if you find the right song and the right player.
‘Oran played until her fingertips were throbbing…Alick joined in… he turned the colour of rose gold, his features becoming brighter, more distinct until he outshone the blubber lamps. ‘
Oran’s ability walks the line between human skill and communication with the divine as she hears the song of creation and can conjure it from the world around her.
This is a beautiful take on creation myths and calls itself to the study of the metaphysics of music across history reflecting the Pythagorean theory of ‘The Music of the Spheres’ and is even studied today in the mathematical value of music and the difficulty in defining the concept of timbre- the quality of a note that Bowling here takes as the magic of the player, perhaps a part of their soul speaking through the instrument.
‘Her heart was black with sorrow and fear, but the poor girl did no wrong;
Through storms she fought
To the Duchess’ Court
To save the Far Isles with a song’Part of Oran’s song battle with the Greymers
The folk songs scattered throughout sing of Nicholas’ own love for music and have an authenticity of pace, cadence and structure that evokes a timeless feel that could fit in as a 400 years old traditional or a new song everyone is clamouring to cover and put their own stamp upon.
What’s more is the instruments themselves are all real or evoke real instruments, from the cithara a version of a Greco-Roman lyre to the bodhràn that keeps the beat of untold Irish traditional bands and so offer an education into the folk music heritage that we tend to sweep aside for the more popular media saturated pop and the like.
Furthermore we link back into the folklore of the world through these instruments as creations of a divine Chorus that played the world into being and how the ancestor ghasts choose your instrument at birth reflect many real-world myths of Gods and Goddesses gifting music to the world.
It’s one of the First Instruments, One of the nine the Chorus made for the world, after they’d sung the sea and land into being.
But music is not just the only pursuit of this book, although it is something folded into the plot consistently like a rich chocolate into cake batter. It’s a thrilling adventure tale too involving pirates and strange creatures and escape from a castle!
Fans of The Company of Eight series by Harriet Whitehorn will adore the Opera and thrilling scenes on the Headland and on a lighter note children who enjoyed the folklorish twist behind the different genres of Trolls in Trolls:World Tour will love this too.
Overall, you do not have to understand or play music to love this book, if you have ever felt your soul lift and ignite, your fingers tap and heart race to the time of a song you belong in these pages.
Please check out the other stops on the tour for Song of the Far Isles by Nicholas Bowling
Song of the Far Isles by Nicholas Bowling is published by Chicken House Books
Many thanks to Laura and the Chicken House team for my copy and inviting me on the tour. 💜