Like a ship caught in the doldrums, Makiia Lucier’s second installment in the YA nautical themed Fantasy Tower of Winds series, Song of the Abyss, struggles to engage the reader. While the ocean/sailor aesthetic and overall world building ideas are appealing, an overabundance of telling and shallow development of character emotions result in a laborious crawl across an emotionless sea of exposition.
Set eight years after the events in Isle of Blood and Stone (Tower of Winds #1), Song of the Abyss follows a 17 year-old sailor and geographer named Reyna. While out at sea, Reyna’s ship is attacked by a mysterious enemy, whose song entrances the male members of her crew, like the pied piper. Left without a crew and stranded at sea, Reyna abandons ship and manages to swim to the shore of the kingdom of Lunes, where she meets Captain Levi, the eldest son of the king. To their horror, Reyna and Levi discover that the attacker’s’ identity belongs to a ruthless, isolated country far in the north. Together, they set sail on an adventure to track down this foe, with the hopes of recovering their fellow comrades and countrymen.
Despite possessing many elements I often enjoy in books such as nautical adventures, pirates and romance, it unfortunately left much to be desired. Try as I might, even after being over 100 pages in, I could not find myself engaged in the story. Lucier’s style of writing, while descriptive, fails to pack an emotional punch. Rather than feeling Reyna’s distress for her missing crew or that fact that she almost dies multiple times, we see Reyna do lots of different actions. Also, Reyna is well-loved by everyone she meets, incredibly talented at whatever she chooses to do, and a “beautiful” tomboy. She’s always moving, seldom feeling, and that’s hard for me to connect in a deep way. Because of this shallow level of emotion, the romance between Reyna and Levi also comes off as “instalove” and unrealistic. I understand that they shared a very intimate moment of grief when they first met, but the way in which Levi is instantly in love with Reyna breaks my suspension of disbelief. I wanted to root for them, but I just didn’t care about either of them enough.
The most intriguing character of the book for me was Blaise, an aspiring doctor and friend of Reyna’s. Blaise’s fascination with medicine being demonstrated through little quirks and mannerisms in her everyday actions and her determination to be a good friend to Reyna and also be self-sufficient stood out in a story with primarily bland characters. I wanted to know more about her life story.
Pacing in Song of the Abyss felt off as well. While we are introduced to threat within the first chapter of the story, we do not learn more or attempt to solve the conflict till about the final third of the book. This causes the first two thirds of this story to be rather aimless, lacking a sense of urgency. However, the final quarter or so rocket us to the climax and conclusion so quickly that everything the story has been building up seems barely explained and addressed. Undoubtedly, the first two thirds should have been sped up while the last part got expounded more slowly.
With that said, if you are looking for a story with descriptive world-building, a nautical aesthetic, and a touch of romance, then try Song of the Abyss. Is it incredible? No. Will it satisfy a Pirates of the Caribbean-esque craving? Maybe, maybe not. Should you drink rum while reading it? Absolutely.