Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"Music runs in Sofi’s blood.
Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.
Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.
Almost like magic.
The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.
As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future."
Sofi and the Bone Song is a standalone YA fantasy novel by Adrienne Tooley.
First and foremost, I would like to thank NetGalley, Margaret K. McElderry Books, and Simon & Schuster Canada for giving me the opportunity to review this in advance. Please note that this in no way affects my opinions. Also note that what I read was an ARC, and things may be subject to change for the official release.
I don't know how to feel about this book. Part of me wants to say that it wasn't bad or is at least middle-ground, but a slightly larger part of me acknowledges that there wasn't really anything about this book that stood out to me or that I particularly enjoyed.
If anything, what comes through the most in this review are all on the negative side rather than the positive.
Let's get into the details.
I have no comments or complaints about the writing as I found it easy to get through. The one thing I want to say is that I liked how the flashbacks had a grey page instead of the standard white.
The synopsis for the book pretty much tells you all you need to know about the setup for the plot, so I will skip past that and go straight to when the journey starts. The set-up happens rather quickly, and what happens next is about 100 pages of travelling and performing and...not much else. Once the pace did kick up a bit I, unfortunately, found my interest waning.
It took a bit until secrets started unravelling, and I am not entirely convinced that it was done in the best way. Parts of the mystery were hinted at throughout the book, so when they were eventually revealed I wasn't very surprised or astounded by the development. I also simply wasn't a fan of how Sofi dealt with what she was uncovered either as it then caused her to make some very poor decisions that she shouldn't have come out cleanly from.
One huge missed opportunity for this book came in right at the end, but I won't go too much into detail about it in case it contains spoilers. At the end of the book, there was a very good message that was brought forth but, the issue with that is that said message wasn't focused on throughout the book. I think it would have made for a very good core theme for the book if it was implemented earlier on. It wasn't though, which was a shame.
First of all, this book has a gorgeous map which is always a huge bonus. But moving on, the world-building in this book was not overly complex but was suited for a standalone novel. I'll start by talking about the Guild.
In this world there is a Guild where Musiks, a form of musician, conduct their profession through. As a Musik, they are required to travel through the land composing songs and performing to the masses before retiring and passing their knowledge and title to an apprentice. I liked the idea of a Guild for music, but I don't think the idea was pushed to its full potential.
Another issue I had involving Musiks, was that it didn't seem logical to me that Musiks were able to just compose and flawlessly perform an entire epic, consisting of both instrumental and vocals, in a very short period of time. Composing a song with 10+ verses is one thing, but being able to memorize it perfectly even if they are a prodigy was rather far-fetched.
Moving on, the magic system in this world comes in two different forms. The most common form would be through the use of Papers. Papers, as the name suggests, are magic-infused papers that grant the user a finite ability depending on what was written on said paper. At first, I thought it was a bit of an odd magic system, but it is interesting how magic was used as a commodity. I do wish though that it was covered a lot more in the book than it was.
The other half of the magic system comes in the form of actual witches, who are able to use magic without the use of Papers. Witches took more of a backseat in this, and I wished they were covered just a bit more so we could learn more about them.
One thing that did confuse me a bit regarding the magic system, was how magic and Papers were viewed by the general people. The use of magic was prohibited in the Guild, and witches kept themselves scarce, but Papers were commonly used so there wasn't a clear explanation on whether or not it was safe to use magic openly.
The characters were the biggest flaw in this book for me as I either didn't like the character or felt like they were a bit dull.
Starting with Sofi, I knew that I probably wasn't going to like her when warning signs were flashing at me right from the beginning. When we are initially getting to know her, someone mentioned that they have heard rumours about her temper, which was a very bad sign for me. Her temper ended up being the least of my worries, sadly, because Sofi was overall a self-centered person with a superiority complex.
Sofi's personality and mentality were all due to her father, who somehow managed to be even worse than her. He, to put it lightly, was manipulative and was not winning the father of the year award any time soon. Despite knowing how his views and teachings shaped her, she was still really hard to put up with as she didn't undergo a lot of growth in this. It was a struggle having to read about her not realizing the extent of the damage her father's brainwashing did to her.
Moving on, let's talk about Lara, the apprenticeship stealer and Sofi's love interest. I had no issues with Lara's personality, but something was missing from her character development as she felt like a bit of a hollow shell. She didn't have a lot of presence even though she was the deuteragonist, and I wasn't convinced that she felt like a fully actualized person.
As for Sofi and Lara's relationship, it was...okay? It developed at a decent pace, despite the fact that Sofi went from being immediately enamoured with Lara, to reluctantly sticking with her. However, they didn't really get to know each other much aside from through music. Also, I didn't like that the entire time they were getting closer, Sofi was lying to her and had a hidden agenda. In all honesty, I thought that Lara should have just walked away from Sofi because she was not good company.
On the last note, one topic I wanted to briefly talk about was Jakko, a character that was pushed to the side and was largely forgotten. Jakko is introduced as Sofi's best friend and was studying under her father alongside her. In the beginning, however, Jakko ends up leaving for unknown reasons, and I thought it was just a huge missed opportunity because he could have made for an interesting character if he wasn't introduced and then thrown to the side immediately.
Books that incorporate music and magic are always interesting to me, but the promise this book could have had was overshadowed by unlikable characters and poor decisions.
If you are also intrigued by this book because of the musical element, I would suggest you give We are the Song (another upcoming book), or any anime/manga with music as well.
This was also suggested for fans of An Enchantment of Ravens, but I would completely ignore that because it really isn't similar (at all). If you wanted to pick this up because you enjoyed that book, I would suggest A Forgery of Roses instead.