Review of We Are the Song

We Are the Song We Are the Song
by Catherine Bakewell
Intermediate, Middle School    Holiday    304 pp.   g
5/22    978-0-8234-4889-0    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-5285-9    $11.99

Twelve-year-old Elissa is a Singer, one of the few whose voice can channel the power of the goddess Caé and make miracles happen for her people. Lucio, seventeen, is her Composer, responsible for guiding her and writing sacred songs. Elissa has songs she wants to write, too, but she fears claiming more than one gift will displease the goddess. When their travels through war-torn Basso lead them to a governor and then a king who want Elissa to work for them, Lucio bends to their pressure (and to the pleasures of court life), even after the governor demands a song that accidentally kills an entire village. Elissa feels that performing miracles for the powerful isn’t the will of the goddess—and when the king wants to direct her magic against the enemy, she puts her foot down. Bakewell crafts a spellbinding narrative that weaves the protagonist’s guilt over the fate of her parents (convicted of heresy for trying to shield her from the church) with her motivation to write a song that brings peace, despite the impossibility of success. Readers may find their own religious convictions either strengthened or challenged by the portrayal of an absolutely loving goddess who appears in the flesh to make her wishes transparently clear to Elissa; others may gravitate toward Elissa’s troubled relationship with the talented Lucio or the depiction of a devoted musical community.

From the July/August 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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