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Posted January 12, 2013
This book has proven to be very hard for me to pin down. There were parts that I loved so much that I could barely contain myself, yet there were a few others that seemed to fall flat regardless of the incredible feats they were describing. There is nothing about this story that is boring, however; in fact, it is one of the most imaginative books I've read in a long time. Think of something along the lines of the world of Pandora from James Cameron's Avatar, except explored at much greater lengths and less concerned with the laws that govern the natural universe.
Besides when Joel and Felicity are training with the wavebows, there isn't really any down time in this book. There's always something going on that's different from what came before it, with some new challenge for them to face. Usually, it works perfectly and the reader gets caught up in whatever new adventure is being undertaken. There are times, however, that things are rushed and not enough attention is paid to the details, making some pieces of the plot seem rather meaningless. For instance, I absolutely loved the parts with the Heatwraith in the Flaming Fields and Nineteen and the "gator-eels" in Prism Valley, but I wasn't a huge fan of most of the time in the Jungle of Darkness where it would just say that they would face some sort of monster and move on.
Regardless of all of the extremely creative creatures and settings in Secret of the Songshell, my favorite part of the novel was always Joel. It was cool to see everything from his perspective, and he always does in fact have something interesting to say.... when he's being himself that is. Joel seemed to lose himself and just become a cookie cutter character at times to keep the story moving along, when actually he is anything but. My favorite section of the novel was the first few chapters before he meets Marshall where it was just Joel being.... Joel.
The only other complaint that I have is that it doesn't seem like the readers are given much credit for their own skills in figuring certain plot points out. Two major character identity "twists" were built up and hinted at almost nonstop throughout the novel, making the actual reveals less than spectacular.
An incredible feat the Brian Tashima did pull off in Secret of the Songshell was some very impressive world-building. Much like something Tolkein would write, there wasn't a single detail left out of place or Spectraland-themed question left unaddressed. The sheer amount and variety of original creatures and other beings is incredible on its own, but this world was so filled to the brim with its own history, dynamics, and even politics that it really felt like I was steeping into the pages of the book and into another dimension.