June 7, 2013

Chantress - Amy Butler Greenfield

Chantress - Amy Butler Greenfield
Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield
Series: Chantress Trilogy #1
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Source/Format: Edelweiss (Thanks S&S!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Lucy’s guardian, Norrie, has lots of rules, but the most important is that Lucy must never sing. Not ever. Now it is 1667, Lucy is fifteen, and on All Hallows’ Eve, Lucy hears a tantalizing melody on the wind. She can’t help but sing — and she is swept into darkness.

When she awakes in England, Lucy hears powerful men discussing Chantresses — women who can sing magic into the world. They are hunting her, but she escapes and finds sanctuary with the Invisible College, an organization plotting to overthrow the nefarious Lord Protector. The only person powerful enough to bring about his downfall is a Chantress. And Lucy is the last one in England. (modified from Goodreads)

I can’t imagine a life without music, one where I couldn’t sing out loud (in the shower or in private) or where I couldn’t listen to my favorite songs over and over again. The fact that singing appeared to pose a threat to Lucy’s life was, in fact, the reason that I was drawn to Chantress initially. What kind of world was this where singing could bring evil to you? My desire to read this increased upon my discovery that it was a historical fantasy, the first I’ve ever encountered that is set in the 1600s. The novel is pretty good, with an interesting concept executed in a simple, straightforward manner. I do have a few minor reservations, but overall, I’m inclined to continue reading this series. 

Greenfield did a commendable job in choosing this particular historical era and setting for her story. It’s not just that I’m personally inclined to like it when books are set in England. It’s also that this felt like just the right setting for this kind of story, and it worked very well. Reading her author’s note about the inspiration really helped me get a better grip on the events she’d included too! 

My favorite part of this story is the fact that singing is the key way to use magic. I’m fairly certain that this must have been done before, but I found the concept as done in Chantress to be very fresh and interesting. It seems like it could be so easy to access magic, as all you’d have to do is open your mouth and sing. But readers are made to understand that it’s not so simple, as the Chantress must have the right control, power and knowledge to really perform magic well. It was a bit difficult to visualize just how the magic would appear, but I decided to take that as a sign that I could choose my own method of imagining its manifestation.

Lucy, our main character, was a typical fantasy heroine. She displays bravery and resilience, coupled with a stubbornness and recklessness that often make an appearance in these characters. I didn’t find her particularly memorable though, mostly because of a lack of unique quirks in her character. While there were moments when I felt a fleeting affection for her, I lost my grip on that feeling fairly quickly. She, unfortunately, fell into the dizzying array of YA female heroines that I encounter when I read and refused to surface again.

Nat is the character I liked best in this novel, though he’s only in a couple of scenes. He happens to be Lucy’s love interest, although I’m not yet convinced when it comes to the authenticity of their romance. He starts out being grouchy, grumbly and unbelieving about magic, but even then, I already liked him a lot. It’s hard not to fall for someone who is intelligent, kind and also very capable in a physical sense. I would love to get to know him better, and hopefully, that’s addressed as the series continues.

The plot is fairly simple, and so this story comes together very easily. Even though I can appreciate the fact that it’s so straightforward, I generally prefer a little more complexity in the plots of my fantasy novel. Chantress is pretty much smooth sailing, as we can see where the plot is going to go, how it culminates and how it (should) end. 

It would be interesting to see how Greenfield continues this series. There are certainly unexplored threads, including what it will mean for Lucy to be a full-fledged Chantress. But one of the things I do like about this novel is that it works well as a stand-alone, ending on a satisfactory note. It appears that Chantress is merely the beginning, and so I may have to pick the next book in this series up when it is released.


  1. Great review, Alexa! I don't know why I haven't picked this one up yet, especially since I have heard such fantastic things about it. Like you, the not-being-able-to-sing aspect is what first caught my attention. Pure torture, that is!

  2. I'll have to read this soon myself! I have it in my kindle, but just haven't got to it yet. I read it can be veeery slow, so I hope that won't dampen the experience...

    Faye @ The Social Potato

  3. What has piqued my interest about this book is also the fact that it's a historical fantasy set in the 1600s. I also like the idea that maybe the protagonist is a siren/some similar sort of creature. That's a bit disappointing to hear that you think the story follows rather familiar fantasy tropes, however, especially in its characterization of Lucy. I'll still probably give this a shot, but with lowered expectations.


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