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Strange Sweet Song

Strange Sweet Song

4.3 10
by Adi Rule

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Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as


Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.

Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?

Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.

Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Boarding school drama and paranormal romance collide in this promising debut…Compelling.” —Kirkus

“What really makes this book stand out, though, is the Gothic and slightly dark feel to it… I definitely recommend this!” —USA Today's "Happily Ever After" blog

“Music buffs will relate to Sing's passion and insecurities, and readers who enjoy a good melodrama will be captivated.” —Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books

“Rule's promising writing hits the right note. There's an opening for a second book, and it has the potential to be as sweet and strange as the first.” —Booklist

“A stunning debut, fresh, original, and utterly mesmerizing.” —Jenna Black, author of the Faeriewalker series

“Like an enchanting melody, Strange Sweet Song slipped into my soul and colored my thoughts long after the final phrase.” —Jodi Meadows, author of Incarnate

“A lushly woven melody of grief, arrogance, and hope. Beautifully written.” —Jana Oliver, author of the Demon Trappers series

“Strange Sweet Song possesses a fairy tale quality that is irresistible. . . Be careful of looking up from the page, because the dark forest is all around, and creatures with frightening appetites and old associations are circling nearer. Adi Rule dazzles in her first novel. Read it and report back if you're still breathing!” —Joseph Monninger, award-winning author of Baby

Strange Sweet Song is as musical as its name. Lush, compelling, and atmospheric, it soars like the voice of a soprano.” —Sarah Beth Durst, award-winning author of Vessel

Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Kathleen Beck
When Sing da Navelli, daughter of famous musicians, arrives at Dunhammond Conservatory, a renowned music school isolated in a deep forest, she expects an excellent musical education and a boost to her future career. She does not expect the seductive call of the forbidden forest; or the scornful disregard of her voice coach, brooding apprentice Nathan Daysmore; or the opportunity to sing in the very opera during which her diva mother died. The woods, it is said, are haunted by the mysterious, catlike Felix, which viciously attacks unwitting wanderers but, if they evoke its sympathy, may instead grant their deepest desires. Sing must confront the conflicting demands of friendship and professional ambition and balance the danger of the forest with the allure of the beautiful, rainbow-colored kitten she discovers there. Is the kitten Felix’s child? What is the connection between Daysmore and Felix? What, if it comes to that, is Sing’s own deepest desire? Rule has written a fairy tale more than a fantasy, and her attempts to integrate it into what is basically a school story make for a sometimes uneasy fit. The time line shifts confusingly; plot threads appear and disappear. The ending may leave readers thinking, “Wait—what?” The school part, with its unconventional setting, could stand alone, as Sing finds friends and begins to define her own professional future. An attractive cover will draw fans of romantic fantasy to this atmospheric tale in spite of its occasional vagueness. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck; Ages 11 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
Boarding school drama and paranormal romance collide in this promising debut. Sing da Navelli, daughter of a world-famous conductor and the late, legendary soprano Barbara da Navelli, arrives at the prestigious Dunhammond Conservatory determined to find recognition for her own talent. Surrounding the conservatory is a dark forest, shrouded in mystery and rumored home of the Felix, a fantastical beast whose tears become wishes. Sing is drawn to the forest and to the off-putting yet strangely attractive Nathan Daysmoor, an apprentice at the conservatory. The main narrative revolves around campus life and rehearsals for the Autumn Festival. The opera Angelique is the centerpiece of the festival, and Sing's dreams are crushed when she is cast as the understudy to the title role. Rule weaves parallel narratives through the novel, following Nathan's back story and the motivations of the Felix as she collides with humanity. Sing herself begins as a largely unlikable and shallow character but will grow on readers who have the patience to slog through the slow first half of the novel. Uneven pacing, underdeveloped secondary characters and a bloated main narrative put too much focus on teenage cattiness, while the Felix mythology and Sing's relationship with Nathan are more interesting and original. Although not perfect, the second half is a compelling read. The end is worth the sometimes-perilous journey. (Fantasy. 13-17)

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Strange Sweet Song

By Adi Rule

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2014 Adi Rule
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-03634-6


If you had been there that night, the night it happened, you might not have even noticed. The strings and woodwinds shone fat and glossy in the concert hall's perfect humidity, and the brass instruments sparkled in the gentle light of the chandeliers. The music itself shimmered as well, lighting up dark places people hadn't even known were there.

You might not have noticed the small movement. It fluttered the fading sunlight stretching in through one of the high, arched windows that encircled the room like a crown. You would have been staring at the orchestra, or at the polished floor, or at the blackness inside your closed eyelids, as the music swirled around you. Had you opened your eyes or broken your fuzzy-glass gaze and looked up at the fluttering light, you would have seen the silhouette of the crow. But you wouldn't have heard it, because the crow didn't make a sound.

At least, not at first. It alighted on the ledge of the little window and folded its wings, flexing its toes as though it meant to be there awhile. Some of the windows still held their colorful panels, but the crow had chosen one through which tendrils of ivy had pushed their way, dislodging the glass with a long-forgotten drop and shatter.

The crow seemed comfortable, somehow, and not just because it was a crow adorning a remote Gothic hall surrounded by dark pine trees; not just because St. Augustine's was a natural place for a crow to be. It seemed to be listening, cocking its head and stretching its black neck as far into the room as it could.

At intermission, the grand piano was wheeled onto the stage, black and sleek and curvy. The crow looked at the piano with one eye and then the other and ruffled its wings. As the audience applauded, a middle-aged woman lowered herself onto the bench and placed her hands on the gleaming keys, stretching and bending her fingers. The crow twitched its own knobbly gray feet experimentally.

Then the conductor waved the orchestra to life again — a romantic piano concerto, well-known to the concertgoers, who settled in their seats and breathed.

When the woman at the piano began to play, when the first smooth, icy notes reached the small, broken window in the ceiling, the crow froze. It stared, its dingy feathers raised just a little. It was listening again, but now it listened with its whole body. As the concerto progressed, the crow remained utterly still. It might have been a stone gargoyle, except there was something too bright about its eyes. They were fixed on the woman's hands.

If you had looked, then, into the crow's eyes, if you had been a ghost or a puff of smoke and had floated up to the ceiling to look deeply into those shiny black eyes where the brilliant white keys were reflected, you would have seen a despair bigger than those eyes could hold, bigger than the hall itself.

And you would have heard the faintest hiss — an ugly, crackling hiss, as different from the pure, clear tones of the piano as it could possibly be. You might then have noticed the grubby beak was open very slightly. And you might have realized with a start that the crow was trying to sing.

But perhaps you were there. Perhaps you already know this story.


Sing da navelli stares across the moonlit quadrangle and up the snowy mountain that watches over the campus. A porter unloads baggage from her father's Mercedes. Just inside the doorway to the dormitory, a haggard young man in gray academic robes speaks to one of her father's secretaries. She is finally here, counted among the select few.

Dunhammond Conservatory. European prestige tucked away in New World mountain wilderness, surrounded by its own black forest. A scattering of mismatched buildings huddle in the shadow of St. Augustine's, the famous Gothic church synonymous with musical greatness. Until her first visit, this spring, Sing had seen St. Augustine's only in magazines. Now she is here to sing, in the place that has produced the brightest stars in classical music for a century and a half.

She drifts away from the yellow lights of campus toward the chilly northern woods. Not too far, not too deep, just the shadowy, crackling edge. The mountain snow tingles her nose as she peers into the twisted darkness. Quand il se trouvera dans la forêt sombre ... She finds herself humming an all-too-familiar aria. When he finds himself in the dark forest ...

When she was little, music was her nanny when her parents were gone, which was most of the time. Sure, various starched, soap-smelling women bustled around, but it was music that raised her, folding around her like a blanket — fuzzy or spiky or cold or sweet and warm. It sparked her, calmed her, made her want to get off the velvety floor and look out the window. Sing da Navelli is more music than words, inside.

Chatter from the campus drowns out the song in her mind. People are taking care of her registration, checking in, all those little details she has never had to worry about. Then it will be official. No more mediocre high school ensembles. She will spend the last of her teen years with her peers — those young musicians destined to attend the best universities and build careers like fireworks, explosive and brilliant. She is finally going to sing for real.

How can something so wonderful fill her with dread?

It would be better if Zhin were here. Zhin, Sing's first almost–best friend, who loves the violin almost as much as the soap opera world of classical music. She looked out for Sing at Stone Hill Youth Music Retreat this past summer — can it have been only a few weeks ago? They even got to do the opera together, Osiris and Seth. Sing loved the elaborate set with the big lotus pillars. Zhin loved the battle scene with all the shirtless baritones.

If Zhin were here, she would tell Sing what she can't quite tell herself: You are good enough. You belong at Dunhammond Conservatory. You deserve this.

The voice in Sing's head won't say these things. It says, Not yet. Something is missing. But it offers no insight when she tries, every day at the piano, to perfect her imperfect voice.

She heard some of the other singers through the wall at the spring auditions; they were good. Very good, but not out of her league. Now, across the gravel driveway, Sing hears her father speaking. He wouldn't let her come to DC if he didn't think she could be good enough.

It's just that, in her family, "good enough" means "the best."

Her parents could have named her Aria, or Harmonia, or Tessitura, or a hundred other clever names that would have alluded to her ancestry. But they weren't for her, these names that roll or sparkle or play or simply proclaim, I am normal!

No, it was Sing. A name and a command.

"Sing, must you wander off? It is time to go in." Her father is suddenly there, speaking in that calm, unwavering voice, more used to command than leisure. Instead of his native Italian, he speaks to her in English, her language. Her mother's language. "You must get to bed as soon as possible, but do not sleep too long tomorrow. When is your placement audition?"

It is a quiz. He knows the answer already. "One o'clock." Her voice feels small here, at the edge of this great forest.

"So you must be awake and singing by when?"

"Nine o'clock."

"Exactly. Eat a good breakfast. Go over your piece tonight, but don't overdo it. It is there, eh?" He taps her head lightly. "You know it very well. I have heard you sing this vocalise one hundred times, eh?" Sing nods. Her father looks back toward campus. "It is a shame we are so late in arriving. I would like to see Maestro Keppler — I so much enjoyed his interpretation of the Little Night Music last spring. He has not aged one day since I last saw him! And I have not the opportunity to speak with my old friend Martin."

It's just as well he won't get to speak with DC's president. Sing already feels her father tugging on the invisible marionette strings of her budding career. The conservatory's brand-new theater is evidence of his sudden interest in philanthropy toward his alma mater.

"I hope they have chosen a suitable opera for the Autumn Festival." He puts an arm around her shoulders. "Something Baroque, eh, carina? That would be lovely in your voice. I would like to hear it."

Something Baroque, she thinks. Something safe. Something technical and stylized. But in her mind she keeps hearing a different melody, a sweeping, wailing one that was born of this very forest almost one hundred fifty years ago. Quand il se trouvera dans la forêt sombre ...

"This is where Durand wrote Angelique," she whispers, and is surprised to have said it out loud.

Her father's arm stiffens. "Yes, certainly it is. This is a beautiful place to write an opera. Vieni, it is time to go in."

Sing hesitates, gazing into the dark forest, Durand's dark forest. Angelique's dark forest. She is unable to turn away.

After a moment, her father speaks in a heavy, quiet voice and calls her by a name she hasn't heard in years. "Farfallina," he says, "I leave tonight. But please promise me to stay always on the campus. They say this forest is dangerous."

Sing tilts her head. "That sounds almost superstitious of you, Papà."

He smiles. "I am just being your father, my dear."

If he wanted to, Sing's father could conduct Angelique as well as anyone in the world. But Sing couldn't imagine him doing something as impractical as wandering around the very forest that inspired it. Her mother, perhaps. But she didn't attend Dunhammond Conservatory and would never see it now. Who knows if she would have answered the forest's call — or if she would have even heard it.

She shrugs. "I'm not afraid of ghosts."

Her father continues to smile, but his eyes are grave. "That is good to hear."


When the concert was over, the crow remained, motionless, its black eyes fixed on the grand piano. It stared until the last rays of the sun were gone, the last light had been extinguished, and the hall had settled into a profound darkness. When it could no longer see the piano, the crow continued to stare through the broken window at the place where it knew the piano was.

And it might have gone on staring forever, if not for a tiny noise — the softest click of something hard and sharp on the tiled roof. Instinctively, the crow took to the air.

But its right leg was entangled in the dense ivy covering the windowsill. The crow fell back, flapping, but couldn't free itself. Its wing became caught as well, as though the tendrils of ivy were reaching and grasping. Still aware of the strange presence on the roof behind it, the crow turned.

It didn't see the long, dark body, precariously, impossibly perched. It didn't see the lashing tail or the yellowing claws. It saw only the eyes, deep and black violet, hungry and pitiless.

The crow had never seen the Felix before, but it knew to be afraid.


Placement auditions. Sing sits on a long maple bench, gazing at the translucent window across the hall. Despite its gloomy exterior, this part of St. Augustine's is sunny. She squints at the stained glass — bright, blocky music notes and swirling staves.

"You're Sing da Navelli." The voice beside her is a vibrant disturbance in the hushed, gaping hallway.

Sing gives a start. Her mind has been drifting. Despite her father's insistence, she did not get a good night's sleep. She was unable to get Durand's aria out of her head — the forest outside her window seemed to be singing it to her all night long.

The copper-haired boy next to her is one of the few teenagers here who isn't clutching an instrument case. Like her, he carries only a black leather portfolio.

"Am I wrong?" the boy asks. "Your name tag says 'Sing.' Or is that just what you do?"

Sing raises an eyebrow. He is probably making fun of her. "Well, wouldn't your name tag say 'Sing,' too, then?"

She flips open her portfolio and studies the introduction to her placement song. Two measures of four, then one of three, come in on the eighth-note pickup. She can't mess up the beginning. This audition will establish her place in the soprano hierarchy — and there is room at the top for only one.

"It does."

Sing looks up. "What?"

"Just kidding." The boy points to his name tag: "Ryan," blue to indicate he's a senior. Even without the color code, Sing can tell who the seniors are. Unlike the first-years — panicky, confused — or the second-years — overconfident — the seniors are relaxed. They have done this audition several times already.

Ryan grins, and Sing accidentally grins back. She forgets the eighth-note pickup, and for the slightest of moments she thinks he is good-looking.

Then she notices his eyes searching her face for a response. His good-looking-ness is calculated.

Her chest deflates. He must know who she is. As if her parents' shiny fame leaches out of her pores. She gives him a quick, close-lipped smile and goes back to her music. Remember to breathe before the long phrase here.

"You're not too friendly, are you?" he says, as though she's a wild animal he's thinking of capturing and putting in a box.

Sing mutters, "I'm friendly with my friends." Friends? Could he tell that was a lie? That she doesn't have any friends? She stares at her music but doesn't really see the notes. And she can tell Ryan is still grinning.

"Well, I hope we'll be friends," he says. "I'll take friendly over snippy any day."

She looks up.


She opens her mouth but doesn't say anything. He laughs as though he knows what she's thinking — which can't be true, because even she doesn't know what she's thinking — and says, "Hey, we'll get a coffee later. In the village."

He's so cocky. Sing looks at him, trying to come up with a snippy response. His mischievous gaze is still on her, eyes steady and challenging, smile relaxed ... shiny hair ... white teeth ... He really is good-looking. Sing feels herself turn pink and lifts her portfolio to study it more closely, hiding her face.

"I just flew in this morning," Ryan says, as if they are having a conversation. "Haven't even unpacked — had to throw on this stylish uniform and come straight over for placements. What song are you doing?"

From behind her portfolio, Sing says, "I'm not doing a song. I'm doing a twelve-tone vocalise by Janice Bailey."

Did that sound snippy?

"I love Janice Bailey!" Ryan says. "That crazy stuff from the seventies? Rustling paper and shattering glass?"

Sing lowers her portfolio. "I like her new stuff better. More lyrical, more tonal."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Ryan nods. "She's got less to prove now that she's famous. Maybe she's just enjoying herself."

Sing likes boys who can talk about music.

She scans the corridor, wondering if anyone else is deep in conversation about composers whose only fans are other musicians. But the hallway is subdued. A line of matching slate-blue wool skirts and sweater vests. Knees. Gray trousers and blue neckties. Heads bent over portfolios, mouths sucking on reeds, bows quietly being adjusted or rosined. The atmosphere is thick with musicians trying not to make any music.

"Well, Miss Twelve-Tone Vocalise" — Ryan leans back against the wall — "you must be disappointed we're doing boring old Angelique this semester."

Sing's throat freezes. Angelique?

Ryan frowns. "You okay?"

"Yes, I — I just didn't ... It's my favorite opera."

"Lucky you!" he says. "Maybe you'll get a big part!"

An image Sing has tried so long to repress surfaces again — herself, imagined in the title role. Angelique. The role she has wanted to sing since she was five.

"I'd want to be Prince Elbert." Ryan hums a bit of a melody.

Sing's chest tightens. Prince Elbert, the one who marries Angelique at the end of Act III? The one with whom Angelique sings a passionate love duet?

Ryan strikes a princely pose and begins to sing. "Tout ce que je vois, tout ce que je veux ..."

"Sure." Sing relaxes. She doesn't know which is more awful — his singing or his French. There is no way he will be cast as Prince Elbert.

But he continues. "Tout est à moi sauf vous!" Sour, silent faces look at him from all along the resonant corridor. He doesn't seem to mind, however, and pompously puffs out his chest, singing even more loudly. "Sauf vous! Sauf voooooous!"

Sing laughs. She can't help it. Everything is so serious here; music is serious. If the conservatory had a motto, that would be it: Be serious. But Ryan doesn't seem to care. He has risen now and is humming the horn part as he marches in place. The scowls along the corridor turn to rodentlike looks of apprehension.

Sing watches Ryan as he sits again, stretching out his legs and putting his arms behind his head. He smells very faintly of cologne. Well, he is definitely different. Her pink starts to return. He catches her looking at him and smiles slyly, as though they have been playing a game and he has won.


Excerpted from Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule. Copyright © 2014 Adi Rule. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

ADI RULE grew up among cats, ducks, and writers. She studied music as an undergrad, and has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Adi is a member of, and has been a soloist for, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops. She lives in New Hampshire. Strange Sweet Song is her first novel.
ADI RULE grew up among cats, ducks, and writers. She studied music as an undergrad, and has an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Adi is a member of, and has been a soloist for, the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the chorus of the Boston Symphony Orchestra/Boston Pops. She lives in New Hampshire. Strange Sweet Song is her first novel.

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Strange Sweet Song 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
terferj More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book at all. I actually gave up reading around the 200 page mark. This is a first for me; I always finish a book no matter what, but not this time. It was a real struggle to read and to want to finish it. It had nothing I liked about it. The characters I felt were lame and obnoxious. The plot wasn't interesting enough for me to enjoy or keep my attention. It just seemed like it was going in circles and the pov's I didn't care much for especially when it jumped to different time periods without warning. So yeah, I appreciate the author writing what she likes but this book was definitely not for me. Sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have you ever seen a movie trailer that shows all the plot points and then you go to the movie and you feel like you have already seen it? Well, please do yourself a favor, and do not read too many of the reviews that give away too much. This book takes time to reveal all, and in my opinion, it is the better for it. There is mystery in the book.... figure it out by reading the actual book, not the reviews. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. I am looking forward to reading more by this author.
ReviewsComingatYA More than 1 year ago
In this debut YA novel, Adi Rule brings us drama in its most complicated form: paranormal romance. Sing da Navelli is the daughter of two very prominent and legendary musicians. Her mother, Barbara, tragically died onstage during a performance of Angelique, and her father is a benefactor of Dunhammond Conservatory, the boarding school where Sing has just become a student.  As if being at a boarding school didn't provide enough teen drama, the forest surrounding the school comes with its own turmoil. Purportedly hosting the Felix, a large cat that will either kill you or grant you a wish, Dunhammond is more than just a place for music.  Upon arrival, Sing is clearly the center of attention, and this isn't necessarily something that she wants, at least not from the snobs. Being Barbara's daughter doesn't even come with its own perks; Sing has to work twice as hard to prove her talent. Competing against Lori Pinkerton, the perfect blond, for the lead role in Angelique as well as straight to the heart of Ryan, the rehearsal pianist, Sing has a hard road ahead of her. Eerily drawn to the forest, Sing must try to find her place at Dunhammond, all the while trying to keep up with the mysteriously rude Nathan Daysmoor, an apprentice and Sing's apparent enemy. As someone who is not musically inclined, I had a hard time keeping up with this one. Not that it's overtly complicated, but I wasn't personally interested. That being said, I would definitely pass this along to some of my students in chorus. Deciphering the setting was quite difficult; I found myself flipping back and forth wondering where in the world I was.  The forest and the Felix reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, in a good way, but the chapters dedicated to the Felix, though thankfully short, discombobulated the flow of the plot. I would almost rather read an entire book about the Felix with Sing's story as the subplot. Also, chapters dedicated to Nathan and George were confusing, and I gave up early trying to figure out everyone's place at the school. Sing's crush on Ryan and Lori's attempts to control him are typical in YA lit, so nothing new there. Once I realized that Daysmoor wasn't a creepy old man (because that's how I read him for the first fifty or so pages), I knew what the ending of the book would be.  Again, I'm writing this review from the point of view of someone who doesn't read a lot about musical interests, notes, tones, etc. For a teen girl who sings or plays an instrument and enjoys good boarding school drama, this book is perfect. Definitely a very specific audience for this one.
Falln2books More than 1 year ago
It is very rare that I read a book that sweeps me away into its world and touches my very soul with its story. Strange Sweet Song is one of those rare books. This is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read. Reminiscent of a modern-day Bronte sister, Rule's writing is almost poetic in its beauty. The contemporary Gothic world she created is described in lush detail, and the reader can't help but immerse himself or herself in the lyrical prose.  The characters in this novel are both modern and classic. They have an air about them that most contemporary people don't have, and I think that Dunhammond being set in the middle of nowhere, with technology having to be abandoned due to no internet access or cell phone reception, really helped the gothic feel of this novel. Instead of playing on computers and texting their friends, the characters had to find other ways to entertain themselves. The addition of classical music made this a beautifully haunting Gothic tale.  Sing, whose name I'm not a fan of, is a complex leading character. She is weak at times, and her voice reflects her inner turmoil. It takes her a long time to find her voice and a long time to find herself. In a large way, this story is Sing's coming of age tale. Furthermore, Sing's name has a deeper meaning. She wears it like a command, and feels that she has no choice but to sing how and when people want her to. The depth of her name choice is reminiscent to the great Gothic writers' ability to add layers of meaning to every word they wrote. The other characters each stand on their own as well, and while some are typical (Ryan and Lori, for instance), others are intriguing (Nathan). The mixture of typical and unique character gives the story a sense of reality that many books lack. Even The Felix and Tamino stand out. I, personally, adore Tamino.  Romance takes a backseat in this book, but it is present. The novel really illustrates the different types of love that one person can have. Love for music, love for nature, love for parents, love for oneself, and love for significant others all compete in this book. One of the main questions Strange Sweet Song raises is can one person have everything? Is anyone allowed to have all of their loves, or must everyone sacrifice at least one love for the sake of the others? I think the answer to this problem ends up being a bit ambiguous, and the reader is left to decide for himself or herself.  My favorite thing about Strange Sweet Song is that it makes you think without being too heavy. The story itself is enjoyable, but there are so many questions and deeper meanings woven into the fabric of this tale that one can't help but question his or her own reality while reading this novel. Because of that, along with the lovely prose, wonderful characterization, and captivating world, I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a bit of a change. This is one book that will definitely get you out of any reading slump you're in. 
ksprings More than 1 year ago
This review was originally published on Kurt's Frontier under Invincible Love of Reading. Synopsis:  A young soprano, famous parents, academic and profession rivalries, politics, tragedy, and an unworldly creature. Sing da Navelli has all that. Living in the shadow of her famous maestro father and equally famous diva mother could not be easy for her, especially when she is accepted to Dunhammond Conservatory. It was founded by the famous opera composer Dunhammond who wrote the opera Angelique. Legend has it that Dunhammond was inspired by the forest that surrounded the school. A forest that is magical and dangerous. Sing wants to move from behind the shadow of her parents and become an artist in her own right. It is a goal complicated by a rival and an unfaithful boyfriend. She must also contend with her vocal coach, Nathan Daysmoor who is a harsh task master but also a staunch ally. He also has a mysterious secret and a relationship with a mad instructor. The challenges of a new school and a planned recital of Angelique, Sing’s favorite opera, and the pressure becomes almost overwhelming. Throw in a mythical beast that appears in the opera but is in fact, quiet real, and you have the elements of fascinating story. Review: Adi Rule has written a fascinating fantasy novel set in the modern world. Drawing of her knowledge of the musical world, she writes a tale that is intriguing and entertaining. The characters begin to invoke feelings almost immediately. The pressures of Sing’s chosen path and life at Dunhammond Conservatory make Sing immediately sympathetic. Her friends care but don’t seem to understand her. It was hard to settle into the story at first. The chapters were very short, and the point of view shifted rapidly in a way that was almost disconcerting. As the story progressed, the shifts became smoother. The dialogue was natural and believable. The magic comes in the form of the cat-like Felix who is drawn to despair and will either kill you or grant you a wish. I found it a most enjoyable read.
chapterxchapter More than 1 year ago
Right from the get go I wanted to read Strange Sweet Song just because of the title. I don’t know why but it reeled me in and after reading the description I was eager to get started. The very first chapter of the novel was all it took for me to be addicted. This was an amazing read that I felt so, so glad I got to check out. Everything from the way it was written to the way the plot played out was hauntingly beautiful. I loved it. Sing da Navelli is a teenage opera singer whose father refuses to let her let go of her dream of becoming a diva just like her deceased mother Barbara da Navelli. When Sing is enrolled for her first year at Dunhammond Conservatory (DC) she discovers that the school is performing the opera Angelique—the very same opera that Barbara da Navelli died in while playing the lead, Angelique. So when Sing receives the role as Angelique’s understudy she becomes caught up in DC’s social scene and the competitive nature of its students. Sing is forced to prepare for the opera with Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor who is nothing but cold, distant and rude toward her and constantly tells her that no matter how good she attempts to sing her voice is still missing something. The opera Angelique was written at DC and that the composer had taken some truth in the lore used in the opera from the forests surrounding the school. As the year continues Sing can’t deny that there is something supernatural at work and that Sing has unwittingly caught the eye of the rumored beast who roams the forests at night. The novel begins with an ominous chapter taking place in the second person (which is something that I personally have never seen before in a novel) that involves an eerie crow and sets a dark tone for the novel. From that point on the story is told mainly from Sing’s point of view and shows her struggle between being the singer she wants to be, the singer her mother was and the singer her fathers want to shaper her into. Most of the novel is written mysteriously. When there aren’t chapters in Sing’s point of view they either reveal the secrets behind who Nathan Daysmoor is or tell a story from the point of view of the Felix. Strange Sweet Song is amazingly well-written in almost every way. Rule’s writing style is clear and flows perfectly. There’s enough details when they’re needed, the dialogue was realistic and apart from all of that (and this being a novel about an opera singer) there’s still a dark undertone beneath it all. Instantly I compared it to multiple authors like Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare and a few others whose names I can’t recall at the moment. The point I’m trying to make is that Strange Sweet Song was brilliantly written and deserves so much recognition for it. There’s so much character growth present in the novel as well as relationships being formed. Sing does end up in a relationship with one of the first male characters we’re introduced to in the novel however as the novel progresses that changes and another character is presented as a love interest (and I can’t say too much about this because of cursed spoilers!). All I can say that about the latter bit is that I wanted them together from the start and holy when they ended up together—it was perfect. I would recommend Strange Sweet Song to any readers who just want a novel that will be addictive from start to finish. Any readers who want a dark novel that mixes teen fiction and the paranormal together will love it. Any readers who want a progressive romance and a progressive plot with mystery, secrets and a strong female lead need to read Strange Sweet Song. 
weetara More than 1 year ago
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of this book, and let me tell you, it was incredible. I am someone who has no musical skills and definitely no interest in opera, and still I found myself COMPLETELY sucked in to the world Adi Rule has created--a remote conservatory with a touch of magical stuff going on. The writing is impeccable on the sentence level--the author really uses all of the senses to make the reader experience the wintry setting and hear the beautiful music being played and sung. And she is just as comfortable writing about everyday teenage backbiting and boyfriend-stealing as she is executing the more gothic and paranormal aspects of the story, bringing all of those elements together seamlessly. This was hands-down one of my favorite reads of 2013, and I imagine it will top many people's lists when it hits the shelves in 2014.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Please, be more active."
Tina_Chan More than 1 year ago
What a stunning debut novel! Adi "Rules" the pages with Strange Sweet Song. This is one of those books that start off good and just keeps getting better and better as the plot moves on. It's kind of like getting hypnotized and getting drawn into the story the more you read...in my case, I started this book thinking it was okay/good. Maybe 3-4 stars at that point. *inserts "okay" face* And then...halfway through the book, I began to realize Hey, this is actually really quite good! The plot is starting to make sense now! And I would've probably rated Strange Sweet Song a solid 4 stars at that point. *insert "smiling and nodding" face* And then BAM the last third of the book was pure magic. A solid 4.5 stars (rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads.) I know I've found a gem the moment I finished this novel...it's one of those books that linger on your mind long after you've read the last pages...basically my reaction once I closed the book: *inserts "awestruck" expression* The plot...oh man...the plot was simply amazing. Readers be warned before you take on this book: the story starts out being told from multiple points of view, and from different periods of time. But about 1/2 through the novel, everything catches up together and all the pieces fall in place. It was kind of like an Ah-ha! moment for me once I realized how some of the character from the past relate to the ones in the present. I think it was really helpful knowing ahead of time the way the novel was going to be structured, or else I probably would've been confused by the jumping back and forth in time stuff going on (hey--what can I say? I get confused easily!) However, my favorite part of the plot is that it is sooo original! It's been ages since I've read a book that has such an original plot. There are no totalitarian governments, there are no zombies running around, there are no love triangles, there is no weird mutant disease plaguing the world, there is none of that cliche stuff that I've been reading so much (not saying I don't like the whole dystopian theme, but it's nice to broaden my view.) Instead, you get characters coming alive from an opera called "Angelique" set in a modern day boarding school (later I learned that the opera doesn't really exist--but for the whole duration of the story, I believed that Rule was actually basing part of her novel off of an actual opera--so bravo! Rule sure had me "tricked"...that's how good the writing was.) I loved how Rule paced the book as well. Even though the book doesn't exactly hook readers in with a heart-pounding action scene, it still catches one's attention by having the opening scene told through a crow's perspective. And from there, the  plot just keeps on snowballing downwards and gaining momentum. And the characters! I liked Sing, the main character. She struggles with finding her identity; on one hand, she wants to fill the shoes her (dead) mother left...but on the other hand, she wants to express her own opinions and beliefs as well. (*cues "Who Am I" from Les Mis*) But I think my favorite character is Apprentice Daysmoor, aka Playspoor. How does one goes from loathing a character to loving him within the span of 100-150 pages? At the beginning, Apprentice Daysmoor (nicknamed Playspoor due to his one and only terrible public piano performance--a great shame for a student of a prestigious music school) because he seemed to hate the world and did nothing bu aggravate those around him. But then...thinks began to click in my brain as the chapters being written in past tense begin to add up to tell readers the true story regarding Apprentice Daysmoor. Let's just say he's more than he seems, shall we? Adi Rule really has a distinctive writing style which I find complements the contents of this book quite well. Her sentences flow and her words are lyrical. I think the best comparison I can give is that Beautiful Creatures is written in a somewhat lyrical style as well. Don't get me wrong here--I'm not saying the words are written in stanzas or anything like that. But the word choice really contributes to the whole music-y atmosphere. If a song could be transformed into a book, this would be it. Okay...so wow...I've written quite a lot for this review. All I can say is that if you like gothic romance, fairy tales (or remixes of fairy tales) or paranormal books, then Strange Sweet Song is the book for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago