The Song bids her rise to battle.
Reeling from her disastrous foray into the Pit, Birdie, the young Songkeeper, retreats into the mountains. But in the war-torn north, kneeling on bloodstained battlefields to sing the souls of the dying to rest, her resolve to accept her calling is strengthened. Such evil cannot go unchallenged.
Torn between oaths to protect the Underground runners and rescue his friend from the slave camps, Ky Huntyr enlists Birdie’s aid. Their mission to free the captives unravels the horrifying thread connecting the legendary spring, Artair’s sword, and the slave camps. But the Takhran’s schemes are already in motion. Powerful singers have arisen to lead his army—singers who can shake the earth and master the sea—and monsters rampage across the land.
As Leira falters on the verge of defeat, the Song bids her rise to battle, and the Songkeeper must answer.
About the Author
Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving fantasy author from the great state of Texas. During the day, she manages the equine program at a Christian youth camp, but at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist. Her love of epic stories and a desire to present truth in a unique way drew her to the realm of fantasy. Visit her online at www.gillianbronteadams.com.
Read an Excerpt
There is a moment between life and death when the chain of time is broken. Shrouded by a thicket of sage from unfriendly eyes, Birdie dwelt in that moment, feeling it in the heavy stillness that surrounded her as she knelt over the broken body of a dwarf. His head was wrenched back at a terrible angle, limbs bent and twisted in ways that defied nature and bone.
Birdie bent her head, listening.
Only a moment.
It was little more than a breath in the grand stream of melody, a hitch in the stride of the universe. But in that moment the true depth of a soul was revealed. All the miniscule strands that formed the tapestry of a life — all the fears and loves, aches and losses, hopes and dreams — bound up and knotted off in a final note. Most folk missed it. Most wouldn't have known it even if they could hear it. But when Birdie truly listened, she could capture it. That final moment. That last breath. Sometimes glorious, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes filled with nothing but deep, dark despair. And then silence.
Heedless of the pockets of flame still licking the tufted sage around her, Birdie lowered her head so that her ear hovered over the dwarf's gaping mouth. Ragged breaths puffed against her cheek, accompanied by a gurgle in the back of his throat.
There was life in him yet.
The knowledge eased the pulsing ache in her own chest. In themonths that she and the griffin had wandered through the Whyndburg Mountains since the trial of the Pit and her failure there, she had seen too much death. The struggle that had festered beneath the surface of Leira for centuries had come to a head, and the earth rang with the clamor of weapons and the cries of the wounded. Only a short while, and yet it seemed the entire Nordlands had erupted into one raw and gaping wound, with scores of innocent and guilty alike joining the casualties every day. War had come to the mountains.
Birdie eased back onto her heels and surveyed the battleground over the leafy stems of sage surrounding her. On the far side of the treesheltered dale, the griffin picked his way over earth littered with bent and shattered weapons and the warriors who would wield them no longer. Khelari. Adulnae. Nordlander.
Wounded left to die. Dead left to rot.
It was yet another of many such scenes they had happened upon over the past few weeks, the aftermath of constant skirmishes between the Takhran's forces and the fighting Adulnae of the mountains. Gundhrold spoke of them as "small frays," inconsequential in the grander scheme of this great war. Perhaps his battle-trained eyes saw more than hers. Even now, as he wandered the dale, he paused time and again to taste the air with open beak or turn his tufted ears to the wind or peer closely at the trodden earth.
All she could see were the broken husks of men and women left behind.
The dwarf gasped, and the sound startled her gaze back to him. His gauntleted hands twitched and clutched feebly for the crossbow that lay just beyond his reach. Birdie set it gently on his chest and watched how his hands cradled the weapon, fingers caressing the carved designs with the familiarity and pride of the craftsman.
Some of the tension eased from his pain-racked face.
Unlike many of his comrades, he had lasted through the battle, but his soul was not long for this world. Already his melody — a deep, trudging repetition of the five notes she had first heard back at the Sylvan Swan so long ago — seemed to be growing fainter.
"Come, little Songkeeper." Gundhrold's wing brushed across her shoulder, sending goosebumps prickling down her arms. The silence with which he maneuvered his bulk through the thickets of sage and heather never failed to surprise her. "It is past time we were moving. There is nothing for us here."
She could not bring herself to meet his gaze. It seemed safer to study her hands instead, so small next to the dwarf's gauntleted ones, but calloused and stained with dirt and dried blood. "I would heal him, if I could. But the Song is not willing."
"Nor should the Song be forced." Gundhrold's head dipped into view, yellow cat eyes large and questioning beneath bristling brows. "But there are others who may yet be saved. Come away, little one."
The dwarf's body seized. A cough shook his frame, and blood spewed from his lips. Birdie seized his gauntleted hand in both of hers. For the first time since she had knelt beside him, his eyelids slid open and his eyes rolled to meet hers. Fear and pain lurked there, and she knew that, doomed or not, she could not leave him alone. Still gripping his hand, Birdie began to sing. Her voice came out as a scant whisper choked by sorrow, soft and still as the brush of the wind through the dale. And yet the Song rose to greet her. It overpowered her feeble voice, surged through her bones with a strength not her own, and wound around the broken notes of the dwarf's failing song.
For a breath, the two melodies aligned in perfect harmony.
Then the dwarf fell silent.
Birdie allowed her voice to trail away, but for a long moment she did not move. She sat gazing into the frozen depths of the dwarf's eyes. Then the griffin's feathered head craned past her, and his croaking whisper confirmed what she already knew.
"He is gone, little one." Gundhrold's tone was no doubt meant to be tender, but not even the sweetest Midland honey could have made his voice or the double-bladed truth it conveyed less harsh. It was just the way he was. Rawboned, bare-clawed, and full of grit. His words stung, but his honesty shored up her strength.
Lies had ever slipped too easily from Amos's tongue.
She felt a traitor for thinking it now that he was gone. But that was the crux of the matter. He was gone, lost in the caverns below MountEiphyr, and though she saw a shadow of his face on every battleground, he would not return to her. What good were his secrets now?
"Come away, little one. Nothing will bring him back."
"I know." With an effort, Birdie pried her fingers from the dwarf's and set his hand atop the crossbow on his chest. Stiff legged from kneeling, she rose and surveyed the battleground. "But there are others."
Always there were others.
Was it the doom of a Songkeeper to witness suffering and yet rarely be enabled to help?
Weariness enveloped her body like a cloak. At the first step she took, the ground seemed to shift beneath her feet, but she pressed on. No matter whether it was her weariness or merely the smoke and stench of the dead that left her light headed, there was work to be done.
"Singing the souls to sleep." The griffin's voice halted her midstride. It was soft, contemplative, so unlike his usual staunch gruffness. He still stood over the body of the dwarf, head cocked and brow furrowed as if in deep thought.
"What do you mean?"
"That is what it is called, what you were doing. I recall it now. It is one of the Songkeeper's tasks — though it has been such a span of years since I witnessed it that I had nearly forgotten. My lady Auna walked many such a battleground and wandered through many a sick chamber, healing those she could, comforting those she could not. And at the last, she sang their souls to sleep. It is a beautiful thing."
Glancing down through the thick branches of heather, she saw the headless body of a dwarf before her feet. She would have trod upon his helmet with the next step. Her stomach twisted at the sight.
"Death is not beautiful."
The griffin came up behind her, footfalls muted by the spring growth, and his wing settled around her, drawing her away. "No, little one, it is not. But the singing of souls to slumber is. Who can say? Mayhap they will wake in Emhran's land when the dawn comes. May Emhran make it so."
His words bore the tone and weight of ritual, as if there was a correct response that Birdie was expected to give, but she was at a loss as to what it might be. Since leaving the Pit, Gundhrold had spoken to her several times of Emhran, the Master Singer who had woven the world through melody at the dawn of time. But although Birdie heard the Song and could comprehend the voice within it, this Emhran still seemed a stranger.
Better that she focus on what she could do than on things she did not understand. So she wandered up and down the battlefield, sometimes stopping to sing a soul to sleep, more often simply grieving over the lifeless bodies of those who had already passed on. Twice the Song filled her with a burst of glorious light, and both an injured dwarf and a Nordlander man were healed. The dwarf wrung her hand and thanked her profusely, rattling off a litany of names and promising her the undying gratitude of his house to the tenth and eleventh generations. The man simply bowed his head, something akin to awe in his eyes.
But their thanks unsettled her, and the melodies of the wounded and the dying called her back to her tasks. She drifted away again through the dale while Gundhrold sent the man and the dwarf on with a gift of supplies and instructions to tell all they met that "hope remains and the Songkeeper yet lives."
Hope seemed too strong a word for it. Birdie could find little reason for it in her own heart. But live she did, and so by Gundhrold's reckoning, hope remained.
So bound was she in her own thoughts that she didn't recognize the strains of the dark melody until it hung about her, throwing a shadow over her vision and threatening to choke the breath from her lungs. She halted, casting about for the source of the song, and reached instinctively for her sword.
But no hilt met her grip. It took a moment's panicked fumbling to recall that Artair's sword, the legendary blade of the Songkeepers, had been lost in the Pit. Weeks had passed since she had worn a blade, and yet at the first hint of danger, her hand went to her side as if she had been born with a sword strapped to her hip. The lack of a weapon hadn't truly bothered her until now. She had seen enough bloodshed to last a lifetime. But with Khelari and Shantren about, it was boggswoggling foolish to wander without a weapon. That's what Amos would say —
Or would have said.
Birdie stamped down the panic rising in her throat and forced a calm breath into her lungs. She had endured far too much to be set on the run by a few notes. The griffin was too far to be of any help. She stood alone among the slain. She had no sword. But she did have the Song, and she would call upon it if she must.
And hope that Emhran willed it to answer.
* * *
The five twisted notes of the dark melody led Birdie to the far side of the dale and beyond. She walked with one ear to the wind, but it wasn't so much a matter of hearing the sound and following it as it was of sensing it. Here, at the end of the dale, the mountains began to climb again, and her path steepened until her legs ached with each long stride. Loose rocks, threaded gorse, and thickets of sage and heather cluttered the way and denied easy passage. Slain warriors lay scattered on the mountainside, faces turned from the battleground below.
Slain while retreating.
The thought came in Gundhrold's voice, and Birdie almost glanced about to see if he had followed her. But she was alone save for the corpse of a dwarf woman lying several paces to her left with arrows bristling from her back.
A little farther on, Birdie came across a pack that had been slashed and torn open. She caught her foot on the haft of a discarded axe and lurched to regain her balance. And then, as a thought struck her, she seized the axe, hefting the unfamiliar bulk in both hands. Bits of leaves clung to the bloodied haft, and the head was chipped and scarred. But it was better than nothing.
The knowledge that she had a weapon and could use it if need be enabled her to step out a little more boldly and to glance back less often. The dark melody seemed to be growing louder now. And yet, somehow, fainter at the same time. Before her feet the heather was bent and torn, and the soil beneath was scuffed with boot marks. Such marks could have come from anyone fleeing the slaughter in the dale, not necessarily from her mysterious singer.
And yet ...
A glint of black gave her pause. Just a few feet ahead, she saw it: metal — dark metal — partially concealed beneath a cluster of sage. A spy? For a breath she hesitated, clammy hands tightening on the axe haft. There was still time to turn back. To fetch the griffin and allow him to deal with whatever was hiding beneath the sage. Gundhrold would be furious to learn that she had wandered alone. But as far as she was concerned, he took his task as Protector a bit too seriously.
She clenched her jaw, shoved through the sage ... and found herself staring directly into the wide eyes of a Khelari. "Don't move." She put all of the ferocity into the words that she could muster and wished she possessed the terrifying presence to back it up. Gundhrold could silence an enemy with a glare. Amos had never failed to quiet his opponents with a few wrathful exclamations. Even Ky could be frightening in his own quietly intense way. But she, the last Songkeeper, had to resort to idle threats. "Be still if you value your life."
The Khelari stared blankly at her.
She stared back. Breath for breath. Blink for blink. The soldier did not move, and neither did she. Only then did she realize how shallow the Khelari's breaths were and how the air seemed to rasp in his throat and how his eyes were glazed with the unseeing pain of the dying.
"Kill me ..."
"What?" The word startled from her lips.
The Khelari moistened his cracked lips with his tongue. Blood had dried in the corner of his mouth, and beneath the dirt and grime his skin had taken on a pale, bluish hue. "Kill me. End it now. My back is broken. I will be dead soon and better off —" A spasm gripped him.
The five-noted melody sputtered like a candle and then came back.
Axe raised, Birdie took a cautious step closer. The man's injury was real. The weakness of his song confirmed it. Up close, something about him held her gaze and filled her mind with recollection of Amos — though there was little resemblance to the bluff, ruddy-skinned peddler in the Khelari's pale face, save for his green eyes. Not fierce emerald green like Amos's. More a soft spring green, like the sage leaves crushed beneath his head.
But a Khelari was not to be trusted.
A tendril of the Song crept toward her then, and she dashed it aside. Khelari were a blight and plague upon the land of Leira. The soldier was dying anyway. What harm would it do to speed his passing? She clenched the haft of her axe so tightly that her hands ached, and a tremble ran up her arms.
But the Song was not so easily denied. She felt the pressure that heralded the burst of light and healing welling in her chest —
And with it her indignation. The Song wanted her to heal a Khelari, when the bodies of countless Leirans lay scattered across the battleground below and Amos had been lost in the Pit? It was beyond not right.
It was an injustice.
Still the power surged through her, though she fought it back. Even as the melody rose to her lips, the axe slipped from her grip to thud at her feet, and her hand stretched toward the Khelari of its own accord.
Sing, little Songkeeper.
The words unwound from the notes in her head and hovered in the forefront of her mind. There could be no denying such a command. It reached to the very root of her being but did not demand so much as forge the will to obey. Swallowing her anger, she inclined her head and opened her mouth to sing. But her voice was drowned out by the griffin's screech. The thunder of his wings fell heavy upon her ear, followed a moment later by the clack of a striking beak ...
Then the silence of a melody lost.
She lifted her eyes.
The Khelari was dead. As she watched, the life faded from him, his body went slack, and the blood pooled from his ravaged throat and then ran no more. Gundhrold crouched over the body, shoulders hunched, and wings extended from flight. He clutched her pack to his chest with one paw. Ragged breaths shook his rib cage. Wild he looked, and utterly fierce, reminding Birdie why she had feared him so when they first met.
"The Song's healing is meant for others, little one." Gundhrold cuffed the body with one paw and clacked his beak in disgust. "Not these creatures of evil." He stepped over the dead Khelari and dropped her pack at her feet. "It is time we moved on. The Takhran's army draws nearer to the Caran's fortress with every passing moment."
It took Birdie a moment to find her voice. "He was a man, Gundhrold."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Song of Leira"
Copyright © 2018 Gillian Bronte Adams.
Excerpted by permission of Gilead Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As the finale of the trilogy, Song of Leira is overflowing, cover-to-cover, with glorious breathtaking awesomeness. I had high expectations for this book, and I wasn't let down at all. The whole book is a bit of a blur because I just couldn't stop turning the pages. The first act was a little slow action-wise, but even through that the tension was strung taut beneath every scene. The mood and emotion grew more and more tense with each chapter. The characters are still so amazing. Ky wins the award of being my favourite in the first, second, AND this third and final book. I really connected with him and how he was trying so hard, even though he kept making mistake after mistake. All the other characters are just as realistic and memorable and each has their own beautiful melody to add to the story. Several new characters were introduced and they were all developed so well and realistically. As I mentioned, the first act was a little on the slow side, but overall the novel was still action packed. There were several moments when I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing. The feels were all in there, and even in the most action-filled scenes, the characters are coming through beautifully. The climax absolutely met my expectations. It was one of those tricky things that are balancing on the edge of being disappointing, but wonderfully aren't quite over. There are always going to be people who will say it wasn't good enough for them, but I am satisfied. Overall: this series is absolutely worth your time, and I highly recommend it to all. (12+) NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
The sweeping, epic conclusion to the Songkeeper Chronicles trilogy, SONG OF LEIRA far exceeded my expectations! AAHH! My heart is so full. ^_^ I haven’t read a book with such overwhelming hope in a long time. Yes, there’s darkness, war, death & sorrow, but in the midst of it, the light & Song pour out hope, peace, & strength. Those times when everything feels lost, followed by eucatastrophe & those good surprises that make everything right. After the darkness & shattering despair of the dark-before-the-dawn middle of the series, Songkeeper, I was worried this final installment wouldn’t live up to my hopes, but it rallied & brought me soaring through the conclusion on wings of exhilaration like a griffin. :D Twice, SONG OF LEIRA had tears pricking my eyes—at a certain death (still broken up over that one, though at least there was peace & purpose to it) & reading the beautiful final paragraphs. It’s heartbreaking & beautiful, & still dark , but the overall feeling I came away with was hope & joy. :) It just stirred my soul so much.
This, my friends, is a book well worth waiting for. Ok, so, two years isn't that long of a wait— not compared to how long some authors have taken to release new books. But with our favorite characters in dire straits, fans of the Songkeeper Chronicles have been anxiously waiting for this final installment to reassure us that, yes, the Takhran will be defeated, Amos, Birdie, Ky, and the rest will live, and the Song will be restored. And now that that book is here and those questions can be answered, I just have to say: Song of Leira is the best of Gillian's books yet. And trust me, you won't see the ending coming. One of the things Gillian does best— always has done best— is theme, and Song of Leira is no exception. Powerful without being preachy, cheering without being cheesy, Gillian speaks her message clearly through the decisions of her characters and the results of those actions. Even in the midst of darkness, even when our characters are at their most beaten-down, they find hope, for the Master Singer is still in control. Even when it doesn't make sense, characters choose to follow His lead— and in that, they find triumph, though there is much heartbreak along the way. And even when evil is overwhelming, they seek to do the good set before them, for such is where the fight begins and ends. The road is hard and the path is long; Gillian doesn't try to pretend otherwise. But there is light at the end of it. Besides the themes, one of my favorite things about the Songkeeper Chronicles is the characters themselves. It's amazing to see how they've grown and changed since Orphan's Song. Birdie, once pushed here and there by the decisions of those around her, steps forward to seek the Song and follow its lead for herself. Ky, once constantly at odds with the ways of the Underground, now finds his way as their leader. Even Cade has mellowed out some. And Amos . . . oh, poor Amos. The brokenness he once hid behind a bold mask has been compounded until he can hide it no more. They're all broken, these characters. At times it seems as if they're just fumbling and feeling their way along in the dark; they're lost in the storm of sorrow and trouble they face. Yet they stay strong and hold true to what they know, and even the most broken find healing in the end. Yet it's not just the characters who've grown. It's the author as well. Orphan's Song, Gillian's first book, felt . . . safe. There was danger, there was fear, there was a cliffhanger ending, but very rarely did I doubt that the characters would make it through somehow. And there were parts in Orphan's Song, even in Songkeeper, where I read it and I thought, that, that could've been handled better. This seems off. But Song of Leira is anything but safe. The pain, the darkness, the sorrow, they're as real as the joy and the hope and the peace. Beloved characters fall and fail and are lost and— not going to lie— some die. (One death in particular, midway through the book, just about tore my heart in two.) Gillian has clearly taken lessons from the masters in how to put readers' emotions through the wringer along with her characters. But none of the book, from the darkest sorrow to the brightest joy, is overdone or underwhelming. It's right. The prose, in many places, is beautiful— not something I say about many books. And the ending— oh, the ending! I don't think I can say much about it without giving spoilers, but it's magnificent. Just trust me and read it.
I was given a pre-release of this book, but had purchased the previous two books in the series on my own. I would love to go into the specifics, but also find it hard trying to not give away key plot twists and turns. It is a fitting conclusion to the story of Birdie (The Songkeeper) and Ky. There are some curveballs in the series I didn't see coming, but it finished with a great ending. I feel like the story of the trilogy is really one of perseverance. Gillian Bronte Adams doesn't hold back from having the characters have to deal with adversity, through the death of friends and characters you might have grown fond of during the books. She doesn't hold your hand and doesn't hold back. Have to think that in some way she has real life experience with adversity or it just goes to tell how good of a story teller she is. I find few authors I can read entire series from and find sometimes female authors writing styles can be hard for me to relate to but from the first book the story telling Gillian Bronte Adams exhibited was captivating and she progressed from each book to the next. If you have read the previous two books you need to pick up this final conclusion to the series. It is a must read and must buy. And if you haven't taken the dive into the series yet, take the dive and start with Orphan's Song, you won't regret it
I was not disappointed by this dramatic climax of the Songkeeper Chronicles. People just kept turning up. Randoms from all through the series (that I had forgotten about) would turn up when you least expected them. I enjoyed the themes it brought up in the book. The struggle of how we can pursue peace even while at war. There was hope even in the darkness. There was a purpose behind what happened. Someone was in control all along. There is hope for redemption and restoration even for those most broken. “You are all broken, Songkeeper... But not beyond repair.” I did not really have any issues with the content in the book. If you enjoyed the rest of the series, you should be fine with this one too. I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Birdie longs for peace; but in a world torn by war, does peace have any place? Beaten by the Takhran, Birdie and Gundhrold have fled to the mountains in hopes of joining forces with the dwarves barricaded in Cadel-Gidhar, the chief dwarven stronghold of the Whyndburg Mountains. Birdie’s friend Ky is also making for the fortress, leading the remnants of the Underground, hoping for a safe haven from the Khelari. But little does either party realize that Cadel-Gidhar is already besieged by the Takhran’s forces. If the defenders of the north fall, what hope will remain for Birdie and her friends? The third installment in the Songkeeper Chronicles, Song of Leira completes the trilogy well. One thing that can be said about Gillian is her writing is quite elegant; her descriptions of places and actions flow well through the scenes, painting a picture that the reader’s imagination has little trouble visualizing, all without detracting from the current of the story. This is certainly the best of the series, both in the technical and the story elements. The plot is more engaging than the previous two installments (that is not to say that they weren’t interesting; Song of Leira is merely more so); and as one would expect, the author’s craft has improved as well. As with any book, however, that does not mean the story is without issue. There are a few potential loose threads, depending on how much stock one reads into certain developments throughout the book. For example, Ky and a girl named Slack both want to lead what is left of the Underground after Cade’s abandonment; the conflict between them is a major point early on in the story. But as the scope of Ky’s plotline broadens, his conflict with Slack is pushed to the background, until it essentially disappears from the overarching plot; the author ends up tying it off rather messily. But that can and should be forgiven, as this is her first series; loose ends seem to be a common occurrence with a debut author. On the philosophy of the book, there are also some interesting developments, one of which was quite a surprise. If one were to ask if this was a “Christian” series, as in, does it have a Jesus figure in the story; it would appear based on the first two books that there is not one. That does not make it un-Christian, but by some definitions it would not fall under that category. However, it turns out that there is one such character present in the story. They were certainly unlooked for as a character, though not unwelcome. Such a development is quite, for lack of a better term, sneaky; one reads the book, thinking, “Oh, what a lovely fantasy tale,” little knowing that they are ingesting the Gospel message. Song of Leira is a hope-filled tale in a world of hopelessness (both the story-world and the real one). Darkness grows while those who choose good struggle to find their role in the battle against evil. But in the end, hope prevails, bringing refreshing and life to a broken land. In this, the book speaks to the deepest need of our world today. The fix for brokenness is not more laws, nor is it even the answer most people look to today, love. It is more than that; it is God’s love, shown us in the Person of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Song of Leira echoes this in spectacular fashion as a River of melody flooding through a dry and thirsty land. And that, oh reader, is where a True Story gets its power.