Review: A Flame of Song by T.R. Thompson

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T.R. Thompson's A Flame of Song was published by Odyssey Books in December 2021.

T. R. Thompson
T. R. Thompson

Tom is an Australian speculative fiction writer. He lives in Belgrave on the outskirts of Melbourne with his wife and two young sons.

When not writing or reading he spends too much time gaming and taking long meandering walks through the forest that always seem to end up at a tavern.

Click here to visit author official website.

A Flame of Song (The Wraith Cycle #3) by T. R. Thompson
A Flame of Song
The Wraith Cycle #3
by T. R. Thompson

The cycle of fate turns on.

In the capital of Sontair, still reeling from the recent assassination, Daemi, Frankle, and Heather are helping as best they can to retain some semblance of order and control. With them is Wilt, trapped now in cat form, but still connected to Daemi through their shared mind, enabling her to identify and hunt down those servants of the dark that still infest the city.

Far to the east, in the mysterious mountain prison of Pankesh, Higgs has been called back from the wash of the welds and returned to his human body. He finds himself under the control of the Novus, the source of the spreading darkness. The Novus uses weldfarers - those who can ride the welds - to alter events across time, and has been tracking Wilt and Higgs ever since their days in Greystone.

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T.R. Thompson's A Flame of Song is a sequel to The Blood Within the Stone and The Forked Path. Just like its predecessors, it's epic YA dark fantasy at its best and most enthralling. This novel is a fully satisfying reading experience with a stunning and exciting ending.

Before I write more about this novel, I'll mention that I consider T.R. Thompson to be one of the most gifted authors of YA speculative fiction I've ever come across. He has created an excellent fantasy series, which becomes increasingly compelling with each new instalment. This series is both fresh and engaging in all the right ways, because the author seemlessly blends epic fantasy with dark fantasy elements.

I also want to mention that if you're not familiar with The Blood Within the Stone and The Forked Path, you should read them as soon as possible, because they're excellent fantasy fiction. I strongly urge you to read the previous novels before this instalment, because reading them will help you to understand the complex events described in the story. Although novel is entertainment, it's in many ways more intricate than other new fantasy novels, so knowledge of previous happenings will be useful to the reader.

Here are a few words about the story:

A Flame of Song begins with a glimpse into the green and lush Tangle where the Guardian helps the wildlers to begin their next journey... Daemi, Heather and Frankle are in Sontair, the capital, where they are helping to retain some semblance of order and control. Frankle is going through the things in the queens' study and tries to find as much knowledge as he can. Wilt is with them, but he is trapped in cat form... In Pankesh, Higgs has been returned to his human body and is under the control of the Novus, which is the source of the spreading darkness. While being imprisoned by the Novus, Higgs finds out that the Novus uses the weldfarers - those who are able to ride the welds - to alter time... As the enemy gathers his forces and gains more power, the companions must bravely confront the dark and face their fate...

In this novel, the characterisation is part of the story and works well within the constraints of the story. Much of the characterisation is subtle and light, which lends the story an airy sense of realism. It was wonderful to read about Higgs and Wilt again, because they're intriguing characters who have fascinating powers, but the other characters - Daemi, Heather, Frankle, Lodan and Petron - are also interesting. I was intrigued by the confusion the characters felt as they tried to make sense of things and searched for knowledge, because their deeds and struggles felt genuine.

One of the best things about this novel and its predecessors is the author's evocative writing style and his fluent prose. I'm impressed by the author's storytelling skills, because he has created an engagingly dark story that wanders off from the beaten track and follows its own path. It's great that the author has succeeded in writing an original story that is reminiscent of traditional epic fantasy stories, but is something different and deeply compelling.

I find the worldbuilding rewarding, because the author continues to reveal more information about the world. The events in this novel take place in Redmondis, Sontair, the Tangle, Pankesh and the Forever Sea. The Forever Sea is quite a memorable place and so is the formidable mountain prison of the Novus in Pankesh, because both of them are places of great power. One of the best and most noticeable things about the worldbuilding is that the author doesn't reveal everything to his readers, but keeps certain things approriately mysterious. I appreciate this kind of worldbuilding, because not everything needs to be fully explained.

The magic system in this series is one of the best I've seen in YA fiction, because the author has created his own magic system and writes compellingly about various things related to using one's abilities and powers. These elements have been an integral part of the story arc since the beginning, but now they are even more important as the characters are getting ready to face the source of the darkness.

There are many scenes in this novel that I find fascinating. I enjoyed reading about Frankle and Heather, because the author writes captivatingly about how they search for knowledge and how excited they are by what they find. It was fascinating for me to read about the conduit that could be used to travel great distances and what kind of an effect it had on some of the characters, because not much was known about these portals. I also enjoyed reading about the mind connection Daemi had with Wilt, because their shared connection allowed them to communicate with each other. And, I definitely have to mention that what the Guardian of the Tangle - or rather a part of him - does in this novel was very intriguing and unexpected.

This novel is speckled with elements of despair, hope, sorrow, duty, friendship and determination, and there are plenty of scenes in which memories play a big role. The use of memories is brilliant, because it works well and makes the story mesmerising. There's something about this novel that slightly reminds me of Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series and Helen Lowe's The Wall of Night series, because it has a similar kind of traditional yet modern edge to it that sets it apart from other novels of its kind.

I was pleased with the ending, because the author delivers a rewarding and fitting finale to the epic events. The final scenes are exciting, action-filled and memorable, because the characters have to face their fate and confront their enemy who is capable of altering events across time and has plenty of power. I won't reveal what happens to the characters, but I can assure you that the final chapters are gripping.

T.R. Thompson's A Flame of Song should be on every fantasy fan's reading list, because it's a marvellous novel filled with action, excitement, compelling worldbuilding, fascinating characters and plenty of magic. If you enjoy dark and epic YA fantasy novels, you must read this novel, because you'll love it.

Highly recommended!