Today I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for ‘Every Star a Song’ by Jay Posey. This is the second book in The Ascendance series. I reviewed the first book in the series ‘Every Sky a Grave‘ last year and it was a book that caught me by surprise and I loved it, so I was delighted to get the chance to return to this series.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
Far in the future, human beings have seeded themselves amongst the stars. Since decoding the language of the universe 8,000 years ago, they have reached the very edges of their known galaxy and built a near-utopia across thousands of worlds, united and ruled by a powerful organization known as the Ascendance. The peaceful stability of their society relies solely on their use of this Deep Language of the cosmos.
Elyth—a former agent of the religious arm of the Ascendance, The First House—is on the run after the events of Every Sky a Grave, when she and the fugitive Varen Fedic exposed the darker side of Ascendance hegemony on a planet called Qel. Though she just wishes to put the past (and Varen) behind her, she is soon tracked and cornered by the Ascendance agents. Surprisingly, they aren’t there for punishment. Instead, they offer her a deal in exchange for her help in exploring a new planet that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. If she agrees, her sins against the Ascendance and the First House will be forgiven.
Elyth reluctantly agrees to join the team of elite agents (including some former allies-turned-enemies) but almost as soon as they touch down on the planet’s surface, things start to go awry. Strange sounds are heard in the wilderness, horrifying creatures are seen stalking the forests, and even the landscape itself seems to change during the night.
But as expedition members start dying, two things become clear: the planet is conscious, and it’s trying to kill them.
Every Sky a Grave was a book that I’d picked up on a whim because the premise intrigued me, and it ended up being a fantastic and incredibly surprising read. I hadn’t known quite what to expect, and I was blown away – and what I particularly enjoyed about it was the writing and the use of language. In my mind, that is where the heart of this series lies – in language, and how it can be used and how it can be corrupted and this sequel which has the challenge of following on from a strong debut stays true to that essence but takes a different approach which also polishes some aspects and shows just what Posey is capable of.
In Every Star a Song follows a separate storyline, although the connections were there – and what I particularly enjoyed about this one is that it opens up the world through the characters. Elyth is a fantastic character, and I was glad to see her again. She underwent a lot of growth throughout the first book and had really come into her own. In Every Sky a Grave the story was primarily focused on her, but in Every Star a Song this viewpoint expands as we have her working with a group of people, although she still dominates the story – but this wider perspective is both refreshing and also allows us to see different sides of Elyth as well. But, it was through the rest of the team that she was working with, that I felt we really got to see Posey’s characterisation skills at play.
There is a small cast of characters, but it is very much a case of quality over quantity, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one of the new characters, and I liked that it took time for the team to come together. They had a shared goal – along with the shadow of the threat of a previous expedition team that had disappeared, but they were still strangers and had to learn to work together. It felt very natural watching them coming together as the story progressed, with ups and downs – distrust and betrayal, and very human emotions in those kinds of situations getting in the way, before giving away to a team that had a wonderful dynamic and some great banter towards the end.
‘“I don’t believe I’d like to come back this way,” he said.
“I don’t believe I want to come this way a first time,” Korush said from the opposite side.’
It’s hard to choose a favourite from the new characters, and especially because I love Elyth so much as a character. However, if I had to choose one I’d probably choose Varen because he just had such a wonderful charm and so much depth to him. He was the character that certainly caught me by surprise the most, and I absolutely loved his interactions with Elyth especially towards the end of the book – although boy did it twist my heart in wonderful and painful ways.
‘…she’d been certain that she would find him standing in its midst, his schoolboy grin greeting her with a mischievous did I do that? glint in his eye.’
While the characters have expanded, the setting itself was a lot more focused and lay in the background in this book. The worldbuilding had been established in Every Sky a Grave – and was fantastically done, and I did love returning to the Deep Language and just that exploration of what language can do – and here, beyond some exploration of Qel’s Shadow and the immediate setting, it took on a supporting role. I think this worked really well, especially with the expansion of the cast, and because it helped move away from one of the few things that I had found was a problem with the first book, which was the pacing being slowed a little too much in places by the description. Here Posey has found a wonderful balance between the description of the world, the characters and the action, and it made for a book that flowed beautifully from start to finish and had me on the edge of my seat on more than one occasion.
The ending was powerful – and I was holding my breath for the last ten per cent, and it really showed Posey’s skill with balancing action and emotion, and here was where we got to see Deep Language at its best. It’s also the strongest reminder that this series treads the boundary between SciFi and Fantasy, and it just worked so well that I had to go back and reread it straight away just to soak in what happened. The epilogue has me excited for what might lay ahead too. Just a wonderful, wonderful conclusion to a fantastic book.
Every Star a Song is a fantastic read that I all but flew through, and honestly, I just love Posey’s way of writing so much that I would happily read it all over again. Plus, I wasn’t ready for my time with Elyth to end, because she really is such a great character. I would highly recommend The Ascendance series, especially for anyone who enjoys SciFi that leans into science-fantasy, and with some truly beautiful writing. I look forward to seeing what the author will do in the future.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.