A high fantasy following a young woman's defiance of her culture as she undertakes a dangerous quest to restore her world's lost magic in Ilana C. Myer's Last Song Before Night.
Her name was Kimbralin Amaristoth: sister to a cruel brother, daughter of a hateful family. But that name she has forsworn, and now she is simply Lin, a musician and lyricist of uncommon ability in a land where women are forbidden to answer such callings-a fugitive who must conceal her identity or risk imprisonment and even death.
On the eve of a great festival, Lin learns that an ancient scourge has returned to the land of Eivar, a pandemic both deadly and unnatural. Its resurgence brings with it the memory of an apocalypse that transformed half a continent. Long ago, magic was everywhere, rising from artistic expression-from song, from verse, from stories. But in Eivar, where poets once wove enchantments from their words and harps, the power was lost. Forbidden experiments in blood divination unleashed the plague that is remembered as the Red Death, killing thousands before it was stopped, and Eivar's connection to the Otherworld from which all enchantment flowed, broken.
The Red Death's return can mean only one thing: someone is spilling innocent blood in order to master dark magic. Now poets who thought only to gain fame for their songs face a challenge much greater: galvanized by Valanir Ocune, greatest Seer of the age, Lin and several others set out to reclaim their legacy and reopen the way to the Otherworld-a quest that will test their deepest desires, imperil their lives, and decide the future.
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In the complicated epic fantasy world of Myer's debut novel, only men can become poets, play harps, set their work to music, and become magical Seers. Traumatized young heroine Lin is tormented by her sadistic brother and miserable that she cannot openly follow her musical vocation. After being surreptitiously trained in music and magic by the great poet-Seer Valanir Ocune, Lin escapes her brother and embarks on a dangerous journey to find a portal to the Otherworld and secure the true Silver Branch that empowers poets an act of treason against the evil court poet, Nickon Gerrard, the power behind the throne. Lin endures increasingly horrific trials and humiliations, several of which emphasize the oppression of women; in Myer's narrative, men must accept the necessity of self-sacrifice before their redemption can be achieved. Despite jarring modern dialogue and some foggy lapses in character development, Lin's quest moves steadily to an effective though expected conclusion, leaving room for adventures to come.