Book Review: Songbird by Karen Heenan

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Bess has the voice of an angel, or so Henry VIII declares when he buys her from her father. As a member of the Music, the royal company of minstrels, Bess grows up within the decadent Tudor court, navigating the ever-changing tide of royals and courtiers. Friends come and go as cracked voices, politics, heartbreak, and death loom over even the lowliest of musicians. Tom, her first and dearest friend, is her only constant. But as Bess becomes too comfortable at court, she may find that constancy has its limits.

Songbird is my first step into historical fiction. It’s not a genre that I read with vigor or one that I seek out when shopping for books. But, as they say, a writer should read continuously and widely. I enjoyed Songbird. Heenan had a very rich style that puts you right in the 1500s England. The characters of Bess, Tom, and everyone involved in the story was detailed and human. The plot twisted as weaved, never slowing down.

True, there were no swordfights, cursed princes, dragons, or magic, but it was excellent regardless. I give Songbird 5 stars because I can’t find fault within it. The plot was engaging. The characters were fleshed out and real. The worldbuilding was beautiful and immersive. The writing was smooth and clear and also immersive.

I admit, the writing at first didn’t catch me. It reads like a classic, poetic and a bit heavy on the narration, but once I got into it, I really got into it. It had romance, friendship, tragedy, and unrequited love – I like all those things.

So, for all the aforementioned reasons, I give Songbird by Karen Heenan 5 brandished lutes out of 5.

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