So go out there and grab a copy of her book!
Here's my review.
I was first introduce to this book by my good friend Kessie (you can read her review of this book here) Honestly when I first heard about it, my first thought was, "Geez, that sounds like every other cliche fantasy book I've ever read."Shard is a gryfon in danger. He and other young males of the Silver Isles are old enough to fly, hunt, and fight–old enough to be threats to their ruler, the red gryfon king.
In the midst of the dangerous initiation hunt, Shard takes the unexpected advice of a strange she-wolf who seeks him out, and hints that Shard’s past isn’t all that it seems. To learn his past, Shard must abandon the future he wants and make allies of those the gryfons call enemies.
When the gryfon king declares open war on the wolves, it throws Shard’s past and uncertain future into the turmoil between.
Now with battle lines drawn, Shard must decide whether to fight beside his king....or against him.
I was pretty darn wrong.
I think the best way to look at this book is to compare to others of its genre.
When I think of fantasy (especially tribe/magic/royalty based fantasy) I often find myself thinking of the Wheel of Time series. The Wheel of Time series is exactly the kind of stereotypes you expect in fantasy. The first book is three inches thick. The first hundred pages are just setting up the story. It's full of incomprehensible and indistinguishable titles and words and rituals that don't mean anything to the reader (and often are never explained) but they mean everything in the WORLD to the characters.
And let me say, "Song of the Summer King" is nothing like that.
When you first open the book you're thrown into the world of gryfons. Shard is a young gryfon, stuck being loyal to a conquering gryfon king and his "pride." Though he's "wingbrother" to the king's son, the king does not trust him because of his heritage, a heritage he knows nothing about.
So here, we start with a few uncommon terms. "Pride." "Wingbrother."
And here's what makes this story stand out.
"Pride" makes sense. These creatures are half lion. Therefore, they are a pride.
"Wingbrother" also gives meaning. For one, they have wings. For two, Shard's first interaction with a new character is with his wingbrother, and they automatically, without feeling forced, reiterate their wingbrother vow.
No confusion needed.
As the story progresses, we see Shard's extreme need to please his pack and his king. He's afraid of exile, but he also just wants to belong. It's something we all feel so we can easily identify with Shard's needs. We want to see him succeed.
But the story gets more complicated than just that. As time moves on further, Shard finds himself conflicted. He's not sure which side (The wolves, the Vanir, his heritage, or the Aesir, the conquering pride) is correct. Ultimately one comes out as the "wrong" choice, but it's not an obvious choice. And it's not something that applies to the whole species either. It's very individual. We feel just as conflicted as Shard does.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as far as story goes. Read the book to learn more.
As for the writing style and the author's choices, I have to say, I'm impressed. The book is written in third person limited, following the main character Shard through most of the book, though it jumps heads occasionally for some much needed character or story exposition.
But one of the best aspects to her writing is the way she writes her gryfons. She describes them as animals. Not as crazy magical creatures like most of us think of when we think of gryfons, but real living creatures. They struggle with flight at times. They fight against wolves, which are just about their height. They preen. They hunt. They aren't some inaccessible creatures. They feel as real as the wolves they face, even when they speak.
In a lot of animal based books, I read and tend to forget that I'm reading about animals. I think of them as humans automatically. But you never once forget that you're reading about animals with this book. She drops a constant, but not distracting, flow of hints and reminders not only about the animals, but about the characters. Colors become associated with certain characters so you never forget who you're reading about.
And it's awesome. I feel like I can learn a lot about my own novels from her writing.
So go out and get the book!