Soulstring: Resonates with mythic weight

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Midori Snyder SoulstringSoulstring by Midori Snyder

In the first few pages of Soulstring, I was worried that I was reading another book about a spoiled princess who was going to do nothing but complain about how hard she suffered in her privileged life. But by page thirteen, I was deeply engrossed in the story of a young woman who is hated by her parents for the sin of being the firstborn and a girl. Soulstring is a high fantasy story about a young woman who has to discover a way to reclaim the magical power that has been taken from her by her father, wrapped inside a retelling of the Tam Lin myth.

Midori Snyder has the gift of being able to write deeply fascinating characters and show personalities through dialog that many authors lack. She builds a detailed world without a lot of excess prose. In a slender volume of 182 pages she creates two competing countries, and different cultural groups within those countries. The terrain plays an important role in the story, and Snyder paints a vivid picture of this setting. At places, her descriptions get repetitive, especially in contrasting the clothing of the de’Stain family with that of the other noble houses of Moravia, but this stops after the first few chapters. My other major criticism of the book is with the head of house de’Stain — the villain. It always bothers me when authors who manage to write multidimensional protagonists write antagonists who act like they have stocked up on evil at a warehouse store.

Soulstring is well paced, with increasing intensity as the action progresses. The romance between the two main characters is typical for a fairy tale, but handled with sweetness and a gentle touch. Using her heroine, Magda, Snyder plays with gender role concepts and what it means to be a hero. The climax of the story also turns the spoiled princess cliché on its head in a thoroughly satisfying way. I particularly enjoyed the way the story was brought round in a thematically complete circle in the final pages.

Midori Snyder is a gifted writer. The story of the soulstring resonates with mythic weight, as if it is an old tale from some tribal memory that the reader possesses. I can highly recommend Soulstring for any reader who enjoys high fantasy novels or retellings of old fairy tales.

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. Oooh, I want to read this! It sounds great.

  2. Yeah, that looks like your kind of thing, Kelly!

  3. All one really has to say is “Tam Lin.” It’s a sickness, I tell you. ;)

  4. Have you read Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin? That one has earned a permanent place on my keeper shelf.

  5. Yup, I love that one. My other favorites are Patricia McKillip’s Winter Rose and Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Perilous Gard, plus Fire and Hemlock which I seem to mention in every discussion that ever occurs on FanLit. ;)

  6. I do like those vintage paperback covers. I guess because its what I grew-up with but whenever I see an old 70s-80s fantasy paperback, it makes me want to grab it up. And only 182 pages too?!?! Its wild when you think about it; it was the norm to have a paperback that was usually only around 200 too. What’s up with that? Were we partying more so we didn’t have as much time to read or what? :drink:

  7. I was just thinking about the short-book phenomenon myself, while reading Eileen Kernaghan’s The Sarsen Witch. It’s just over 200 pages, and initially I’d been thinking it was because Kernaghan just writes short in general. I’ve now read several of her books and none of them (no matter what year they were published) are doorstoppers. But you’re right, a lot of older books are shorter. And I think there were a lot more that weren’t part of a series, too. I wonder if publishers pushed for these shorter novels, and/or what made them start encouraging giant tomes and endless series instead.

  8. I really think books, -like everything else,houses, food portions,people, etc.. , or maybe more specificly genre novels having gotten bigger.
    It seems like there were lot of series books in genre fiction too, but they were more self-contained. Kinda more like watching a TV series -as in sitcoms or shows like Law and Order, not the TV sagas like Lost. It’s like they were written with the context that they probably wouldn’t be read in order. Theives’s World comes to my mind.
    I think it was Jordon’s WoT, that made the big door-stopper epic series more popular in fantasy.

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