Sunday, August 28, 2005

Review: "Singer of Souls" by Adam Stemple

First-time novelist Adam Stemple comes from good writing stock. His mother is respected fantasy author Jane Yolen, with whom he co-wrote a children's book, so there are high hopes for his first book, "Singer of Souls" ($22.95, Tor). Stemple lives up to them.

The book tells the story of Douglas "Doc" Stewart, a recovering heroin addict and musician. (He got the nickname after a drug binge that left him talking completely in rhymes for a time. His friends began to call him Dr. Seuss.)

When he finds himself back with those same friends, preparing a needle that will take him right back into his former lifestyle, he decides he has to make a major change. He flees the temptation by going to stay with his grandmother, a tough no-nonsense sort, in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he makes a good living as a street busker thanks to his innate talent to create songs about people on the spot.

It was a good choice for him, but was the choice entirely his? When he sings a song for a mysterious woman, he ends up opening the door to a strange world he never thought existed and getting himself trapped in the middle of an age-old supernatural war.

An unsuspecting human caught in a war between supernatural powers is hardly a new idea for the genre. In fact, the last book I read, Orson Scott Card's "Magic Street," had the same premise. But Stemple handles it deftly, throwing in nice twists and never quite letting the reader know where Doc stands with the folk of faery.

He also knows his music and has an eye for detail when it comes to that aspect. The book should be an interesting read for musicians, but for those who don't know the terminology, the writer's allusions to chords and scales may get a little tedious. Most of them are brief and won't interrupt the story.

Stemple has a fast-paced, breathless writing style that keeps the reader in the action. At less than 250 pages, this novel is incredibly short by today's fantasy standards, but it packs a lot of punch into those few pages. I'm looking forward to his follow-up.

No comments: