Book Review: The Song of the Marked (Shadows and Crowns #1)

Title: The Song of the Marked

Author: S.M. Gaither

Pub. Date: September 17, 2020

Pages: 517

Pub: Independently Pubbed.

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

An ancient evil is stirring. The old gods are growing restless. Can she stop the coming storm?

A Devastating Sickness

For decades, the Kethran Empire has been plagued by a strange illness that leaches the very life and soul from its victims.

The Girl Who Survived

Casia is one of the Fade-Marked—one of the few people who caught this sickness and lived. Why she lived is a mystery even to her and the outcast crew of mercenaries she calls her family. It also makes her an intriguing target for the young, enigmatic king-emperor, who claims he wants to work alongside her to find a cure.

Unfortunately, working alongside him also means working with the handsome but infuriating captain of one of the most prestigious branches of the Kethran Army.

A Soldier With No Past

This infuriating Captain Elander also has secrets: A past that Cas can’t seem to uncover, a powerful but strange brand of magic, and a deep distrust of the very monarch that he’s sworn to serve. She feels oddly drawn to him in spite of these things…

But can she really trust him?

The Fate of an Empire

As the bodies pile up and strange monsters begin to wreak havoc throughout the realms, Cas and Elander will have to work together to protect their world whether they trust one another or not. Because one thing is clear: Something ancient and evil is stirring in the shadows of Kethra.

And the empire will not survive its full unleashing.

But how can they save a world where nothing and no one is what they seem to be— including Cas herself?

This will be a spoiler free review. I listened to the audiobook via Audible and was no disappointed at all. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know how excited I was for this book. I’ve been talking about it for months, and I finally got around to reading it. I initially was going to dive right in, but then I found out that it took place in the same world as another book that had been on my TBR for a while, so I decided to read that series first – for context. If you’re curious – check out my reviews for the Serpents and Kings Trilogy – The Queen of Cursed Things, The King of Burning Skies and The Empire of Empty Wars. I can’t recommend those books enough, and I really can’t recommend this new one enough.

This book was so good. I was hooked from the moment I started it. I loved being back in this world – even though this book takes place in another kingdom. I had to remind myself about the hierarchy of the Gods, but it’s explained – so that was a nice little refresher.

I thoroughly enjoyed Casia as a character. She’s got a traumatic past, some anxiety issues, but she never stops fighting for those she cares about. And how we’re introduced to her – y’all, it’s really good. Dropped right in the middle of a tense action scene. Starting this book off with a bang. Her friends are great too and I loved their roles in this book. There for her, but also willing to tell her how it is. Loyal to a fault.

And then there’s Elander, and honestly? New Book Boyfriend Alert. I love this man. He’s got his secrets, his magic, his dark, mysterious, bad boy persona, but really, he’s something else – soft.

Omfg, how he is with Casia? I die. My heart melts.

Like I said before, Cas deals with anxiety – and it’s featured pretty prominently in the book. As the reader, we see her navigate her way through the anxiety attacks, and the methods she uses to ground herself – to bring herself back. And my favorite part in this whole book has to be this tender moment between the two of them, where he’s just there for her. No pressure, just there.

I don’t want to give too much away, or inadvertently spoil anything, but his understanding of her anxiety attacks and his willingness to be there for her…

I die.

They’re just wonderful together – the sarcastic remarks, the snark, the obvious attraction and confusion at why they have such strong feelings for each other – which I have my theories and I cannot wait to dive into book 2 and see if I’m on the right path with them.

Then you have the King-Emperor – very enigmatic and endearing and you want to spill all your secrets to him – but like, I didn’t trust him from the beginning. And I also kind of figured/guessed at what Casia’s big reveal was going to be. I don’t think it was predictable or that I 100% thought that, that was going to happen. But more like, “lol wouldn’t it be funny if” and lo and behold!

Then there’s the actual ending to this book and what the fuck. Legit saw none of it coming and it’s such a juicy twist. It’s shocking, it just about had me raging while at work, but thank god the second book is out, because I don’t have to wait. If I had to wait, I’d actually die. Because there is so much at stake, revelations have come to light and lives are on the line.

This book was fantastic – the world, the writing, the bit of spice…you’re immediately sucked in. You also don’t have to have read the Serpents and Kings Trilogy before this new series, but I highly recommend it. They’re fantastic books and I can already tell that this is going to be a fantastic new series by S.M Gaither. I’m excited.

As a quick final note, if you’re a fan of Cas and Poppy from From Blood and Ash, then you’re probably going to really love Cas and Elander. I would say, besides ACOTAR and maybe the Blade and Rose series, this book is comparable to FBAA and KOFAF. So, maybe go pick it up right now, so I can have someone to talk to about this book?

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