Alison Croggon The Singing:
the fourth book of Pellinor
Walker Books 2008
As with the author, I finished (reading, in my case, writing, in hers) the Pellinor tetralogy with mixed feelings. Regret, first of all, because there was a sense of closure on the whole series: any hint of sequels was firmly dispelled by a note at the beginning of the appendices that outlined the subsequent history of Maerad, Hem and their friends, leaving little chance of another epic undertaking by the characters we had grown to know and love. But satisfaction, too, was there: that wrongs had been righted, balances restored and friendships deepened.
At the beginning of The Singing we pick up again the story of Maerad which was abandoned during The Crow. Maerad finds herself back at the bardic town of Innail where she had first been made aware of a life different from her upbringing as a slave, and temporarily finds a respite from her wanderings of close on a year. But she has much still to accomplish – finding her brother and solving the riddle of the Treesong, for example – and so begins the chain of events that lead up to the final confrontation.
I found much to enjoy in this final installment. Themes are re-visited but are never the same: there is a siege, but it is not the kind of siege that Hem experienced in Turbansk; we are re-acquainted with the elemental beings we have met before, the Landrost, the Winterking and Ardina, but the relationships between them and humankind have changed; and all the while the protagonists are growing in maturity, in powers, in insights, no longer the innocents abroad. And, with the pain of growing there come the sacrifices.
For this reader the Pellinor quartet has been a wonderful journey to shadow over the course of the narrative’s year, aided and abetted by the splendid cartography in each volume. I don’t agree with critics who feel the conclusion pat: after all, one of the purposes of fantasy, as with fairytales and other traditional stories, is to tease and cajole but ultimately to reach a satisfying resolution. But Croggon has also managed to invest her main characters with the kind of sympathy that we look for in friends, and for that the Pellinor books are raised above the ordinary. As Maerad is reputed to have written, “… the fairest sight | on this dark earth | is the face of the one you love.” If that is pat, then all human relationships are pat, and I can’t believe that is so.
In anticipation of a prequel, The Bone Queen, appearing any time soon, I’ve reposted reviews of Alison Croggon’s four Pellinor books; they first appeared in January and February 2013