Book Review: The Song-Sayer’s Lament by David Ebsworth

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Goodreads Synopsis: In the lands once named Britannia by the Empire and its vanished Legions, the Oak Seers’ song-sayers still weave their words into the lore by which everyday life is ordered, into the myths and sagas of hero-tales, and into the very fates that will determine whether the years ahead shall be bathed in shining light or plunged into a terrible darkness. 

In his fifth novel, David Ebsworth brings to life the stories of young warlord Ambros Skyhound, and the blind song-sayer, Morgose, told through the words of teacher and mentor Meridden of Sea Fort.

 

 

Author: David Ebsworth

Title: The Song-Sayer’s Lament

Publisher: Silverwood Books

Date: 2016

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I’m not sure what I was expected from The Song-Sayer’s Lament. I think the hints of the Arthurian legend misled me because I was expecting it to link up with the story that I know.

It took me a while to get into it. The descriptions are long, and both people and places are given many different names – the majority used every time they are mentioned. It left my head reeling a little as to which were locations and which were people! This distanced me from the opening of the novel; my focus was on keeping track of what was going on, not the plot and the characters.

The plot follows Merriden, a renowned Mentor tasked with passing on his wisdom to a young Ambros Skyhound. Merriden, for the most part, is a likeable character: you sense his desire to protect, preserve and pass on knowledge, but also that he is prepared to fight and, if necessary, die for Ambros.

Merriden appears to have conflicting loyalties. His desire for Ambros’ treacherous wife not only causes trouble, but haunts him for the rest of the novel. The reader knows he loves Ambros like a son; it weakened his character to have his loyalty tested in such a way because of a woman who scorns him.

 “One more victory like that one, Lord Protector,” I said, trying to remember the precise quotations, “and we shall be utterly ruined.”

I really liked Ambros at the beginning. He is determined to unite the lands and protect his people (the Arthurian link). His budding relationship with Morgose is realistic and actually quite sweet – it works compared to Merriden’s desires.

But Ambros uses and deceives Merriden too many times for him to remain a likeable character. If Ambros was the narrator, these events would show a good leader. But the reader is linked with Merriden and feels his betrayal rather than Ambros’ reasoning. I couldn’t connect with his character by the end, although could still empathise with his plight.

Once you get used to the style of writing, the plot is straightforward – as long as you can keep track of who is a suspected traitor, who is a new ally and who is the foe. They switch places a lot!

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There are a lot of fights and battles throughout this book. But Ebsworth does something I’ve never seen before: he glosses over them.

It works!

Merriden’s narration reveals how everything is a haze once a battle starts, so Ebsworth doesn’t take pages to recount the different tactics to hold against the enemy. He simply states that they held. Personally, I felt it kept the narration not only focused, but realistic, and stopped it turning into a long-winded novel.

There was too much religion for me. The book would have benefited from more character development compared to religious discussions. Morgose is supposed to be both a Christ-Bride and a Song-Sayer, but I never quite understood the power of the Song-Sayer’s and why they were revered, therefore her character’s importance was undermined for me.

An enjoyable book as long as you pay attention!

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Song-Sayer’s Lament by David Ebsworth

  1. Thanks for the review and happy to pick up any comments or questions, of course. Writing Sixth Century Britain is a real challenge because, in truth, we know absolutely nothing about it. And apologies if the “Arthurian legends” thing was a bit misleading. I think that was something to do with the publicists rather than me because (as somebody who believes firmly that there’s no evidence whatsoever for anything other than a “composite” Arthur figure) I was determined not to make this an “Arthur” story. Best regards. David Ebsworth

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that was my own misconception – I saw someone talking about it being Arthurian in a review before I read it, so had that in my head. There is nothing in the book/blurb that says it, just someone put the idea in my head! I enjoyed this book – it was different to other historical fiction which was refreshing because so often they involve the same thing because it is what history knows to have happened, whereas for me personally, i haven’t read anything like yours before. Thank you!

      Like

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