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Series: The Pillars of Dawn #1
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Fable Montgomery is the Muse of Story.
Fourteen years ago she gave up her home, her memories, and the man she loved, to prevent a new Dark Age. Yet when her beloved aunt is murdered, the fate of two worlds rests on Fable’s ability to recover the memories she worked so hard to destroy.
Fable returns to the land of myth and magic, a place called Aria. A world that has been waiting fourteen long years for her to fulfill the promises she’s forgotten she made.
In a surge of power she writes the Prophecy of Crows, a 240 page manuscript of the future arc. But before she can read it, all but thirteen of the pages are stolen. With only thirteen pages to guide her through the story, Fable must rediscover her power of inspiration, because the last page of prophecy foretells her death.
And if the Muse of Story dies…all stories die with her.
A strong sense of recognition without context, love without knowledge of why or whom, and joy of reunion without the awareness of separation, floored me as we threw our arms around one another.
There are a lot of facets of Murder of Crows that one by one become exposed as the tale goes on, and it’s almost more than I have the capacity to effectively express. What’s most confounding of all is I can very nearly feel all the love and labor that had to have gone into this book even though it strikes me, again and again, as totally natural storytelling. I’m an enormous fan of authors who can take characters through grand quests without losing sight (or losing me), i.e. The Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen, and Athena executes this maneuver flawlessly.
We start with Fable Montgomery returning to her childhood home with her beloved Aunt Celeste for the funeral. Small, strange things happen around the house, but it’s nothing in comparison to the FBI showing up to inform her of an investigation wherein several young women have been abducted and she’s presumed next. Agents Drake and Mendelson keep an eye on her until a man from her past shows up and ushers her return into the world of Aria where it is revealed that her stolen manuscript, The Prophecy of Crows, is actually a legit prophecy because she’s a Muse.
Aria is a fantasy land starkly counterpointed against the slightly gloomy town of Portland where Fable has taken seemingly permanent refuge in her aunt’s home. She rediscovers friendships she never remembered forming – Sybil, her best childhood friend – a love she doesn’t recall having left behind – Liam, Sybil’s brother, who protects her at all costs, and was the one to bring her to Aria – and incidents that built up to the reason she left (and forgot all about) Aria in the first place – a terrible impending war that only her marriage to the foul Xabian will placate, a delicate balance that exists because there are 10 Muses incarnated into this generation for some reason, a need to solve her Aunt Celeste’s murder and figure out how it plays into the scheme of the Prophecy.
I often hear of this impulse, this feeling, that there are some people others “love to hate,” but I’ve never experienced this before. When I hate a character, I don’t like doing it – I simply hate them. If they’re a really good antagonist, I want them gone now, fast, hard. But for the first time I found characters that I legit “loved to hate” – it was fun reading their plots and conspiracies even though I knew they were terrible, and everyone else? Loved ’em. Even the ambiguous characters – Abra with her black crow tattoos causing havoc in the public Portland streets and Maya with her somewhat selfish wish to withdraw from her duties as Muse – managed to pull of marvelous depth on their parts without needing a wealth of airtime.
And there is absolutely nothing that can be said of Athena’s prose – the woman can sling pen across paper and make it look and feel like magic even in the most mundane of instances.
Auntie Celeste’s house always smelled like the forest. Not the edge of the woods where the trees met civilization, but the deep woods where trees are hundreds of years old and the bracken is nourished by layers of undergrowth and moss. The aroma that lingers with living things flourish on the remains of what thrived before.