Marc reviews ‘Counterpoint’ and ‘Crescendo’ (Song of the Fallen 1 + 2). Re-released by Riptide Publishing 😉
Song of the Fallen Re-Release Celebration
CLICK ON THE COVER, TO BUY THE BOOK
About the Song of the Fallen Series
Two enemies, three warring races, and a singular love with the power to change the future.
It is the twilight of mankind. Depleted by generations of war with a dark race, the human kingdoms and their ancient alliance stand on the brink of extinction. The outlands are soaked with the blood of the fallen. The midlands are rotting with decadence and despair.
Elfkind, estranged by past crimes, watches and waits for nature to run its course.
And then the two collide.
Ayden’s life has long been guided by two emotions: love for his sister, and hatred of all things human. When he’s captured in battle, he is enslaved in the service of a human prince, Freyrik Farr.
Freyrik has always known elves to be beautiful and dangerous, but never has one affected him as deeply as Ayden. Teetering on a dagger’s edge between duty and high treason, Freyrik discovers that some choices can change a life, and some an entire world.
Between prejudice, politics, pride, and survival, Ayden and Freyrik must carve a new path, no matter how daunting. For nothing less than the fate of both their peoples rests on the power of their perseverance—and their love.
The Covers: The new covers are very beautiful! Perfect art for fantasy stories. I find it most amazing that the artist Simoné managed to capture an aspect of the novels that is extremely important, but does not naturally translate to graphic art. Sounds. Songs. Music. Everything has it’s own song for those able to listen and in the first cover the elf is almost glowing with music and power surrounding him, in the second cover it is very significant that he seems ashen and weak, without any light around him.
The Titles:The meaning of the series title ‘Song of the Fallen’ only reveals itself fully to the reader in book two, but it sounds ominous and intriguing. Book one is ‘Counterpoint’ and works well with the dangerous game the two main protagonists are playing in it. Book Two is ‘Crescendo’ which works well with the songs of all things and how Aiden is affected in this book.
The Story: ‘Counterpoint’
I must be honest. ‘Counterpoint’ is one of the very first books I read and loved in the M/M genre. I found it by discovering the Goodreads list ‘Best Fantasy with LGBT protagonists. You could even say that Rachel is one of the people responsible for me becoming becoming addicted to the genre and eventually becoming a reviewer ;)That also means it has been quite a while since I read book one and did not remember everything. I have read about 400 M/M books since, so that was to be expected. However, I never forgot about the book. I remember it as one of the best fantasy books in the genre I read and highly enjoyed the shifting dynamic between elf and human, hate and love.
Usually, i can’t read stories with slavery. It is such a terrible and horrible thing to me that reading about it is often too much. In fantasy and historical settings I can sometimes stomach it, if it is well written. This story is at times dark and gritty and the characters make some bad decisions, but I appreciated that Freyrik was not interested in having Ayden in his bed against his will. He never forced love making on his elf prisoner, though of course the relationship between a prisoner and his keeper can never be equal and Freyrik held the elf’s sister safe from harm, giving him additional power over Ayden.
It is an enemies to lovers story between a human and an elf, two enemies at war! I loved discovering more about their shared history, how differently they see what happened in the past and how differently humans, with their shorter life span, look at the world. They were not there when the terrible thing happened that brought war and destruction to the two people and created a dark force that the humans can only barely and at great cost hold at bay. Rachel Haimowitz’ world is unique – a new, inspired setting with a well drawn mythology. There is the constant threat at the edge of the human kingdom, the expectation people have of their ruler, the social pressures that have to be navigated and most fascinating of all, the magic of the elfs. All of it changes the world from one that would be similar to our to one that has to adjust to the realities they are faced with and their behavior seems very authentic to human nature, even if the stimuli they react to is not something people in our world ever had to worry about in that extend.
Ayden is able to hear the song of everything in the world, which also gives him the emphatic ability to know how Freyrik feels, which often helps him to analyse the man and determine truth from lies. The whole concept of that is immensly interesting and I was a s curious about the magic as Freyrik was.
It is something not a lot of humans seem to know a lot about. They are still not at peace, but have a fragile agreement not to kill each other as long as the borders are not crossed. Still, there is a lot of hatred in the hearts of both races, which can easily be seen in Freyrik and Ayden. A lot of distrust and hatred, but there is room for more than that. Freyrik is interested in learning more about Ayden and his culture, open to that, even as he blindly trusts the stories about the war that he has been told. Ayden is highly suspicious of the human and as prisoner of the human prince, has a hard time accepting his positive sides, even when his senses make them known to him.
I love stories where enemies fall in love (even if at first there are different reasons for the human and the elf to be together). They are not supposed to love each other, but they just can’t help themselves. Against every reason and their own judgement, a tentative trust and affection develops between the unequal pair. Something that surely can never lasts in a dark world such as this.
It does not take very long until the freshly forged connection is tested to the very extreme – by a threat that could destroy them all.
If you like fantasy stories, this is a definitive ‘MUST READ’. it felt very similar to ‘The Captive Prince’, though ‘Counterpoint’ has a faster pace and more fantastical aspects. I thoroughly enjoyed myself – HOWEVER there is a big cliffhanger in the end. A huge cliffhanger that completely changes the game and the way this story was headed. Be warned and get both books at once! Both are integral to get the whole picture and reading only one will feel completely incomplete. ‘Counterpoint’ and ‘Crescendo’ are the complete series, though, so you can start it without worrying that you have to wait a long time for a sequel and will have to hang from the cliff for the whole time.
9 out of 10 pots of gold
The Story: ‘Crescendo’
As mentioned above, first book ends in a major cliffhanger and really both books should be read back-to-back. They very much belong together. After reading book 1 I didn’t have time to continue the journey immediately and when I finally had the time again, too much time had past to feel comfortable reading book 2, before reading the first book again. I never got around to it, but when this tour came along I could no longer resist. It was the perfect timing and I remembered that I really liked book one.
I was a bit surprised just how much I enjoyed it. It was a great read and after going back to it, I couldn’t wait to start ‘Crescendo’. I was ready.
Well, the story has a different setting, different secondary characters and a very different feeling. After the twist of book one, Ayden and Freyrik are thrust into new circumstances and their loyalties are tested. There are so many opposing loyalties at work here that it made things rather complicated, but at no time did I have problem following the plot.
At this point we know that Freyrik and Ayden love each other and would sacrifice a lot for each other. However, they stil believe much of what they have been told by their people, they just recognize that despite their beliefs, they can trust the other. To a certain extend. I was very naive to think that their love would come before everything else. Of course the circumstances they find themselves in, leave little room to navigate.
They might love each other, but they both have loyalties that have to come before themselves and their own feelings. They have different priorities and different struggles. Both are drawn into their own plots and there are high stakes at play in both. Through it all, however, I was glad that these facts did not diminish what Freyrik and Ayden found in each others arms. They were just powerless to really change the situation they found themselves in and had to follow their own paths to make a difference, even if they might both die for it.
Even as a reader you had no idea what is right and what wrong, who the good guys are and where this book would go. There are difficult choices to make, but whenever I believed I knew what the right thing to do was or what Ayden and Freyrik would choose to do in the end, I was proven wrong. I did make a few assumptions at first, even was annoyed at one of the characters for making decisions that seemed obviously stupid to me. After all that happened, why could Freyrik still so adore his brother and his ruler?
I wanted him to realize all the horrible and unforgivable things they had done and place his only loyalties into his lover. But Ayrik made some mistakes as well and they are both flawed and ‘human’ characters. There is no one who is entirely good or bad. The ‘bad’ guys we want to hate have reasons for their actions, even if we hate them for some of the things they do and say. The good guys will make decisions that show their dark sides, but even in betrayal, it is easy to see that every action has a reason. Everytime the direction of the story seems obvious, it become clear that it is in fact not.
The story and the characters continued to surprise me in refreshing and unexpected ways and I felt like the end was very satisfying. Even too much. There will probably be many people glowering at me for saying this, but it felt like the bittersweet ending that almost happened should have stayed the ending. For a dark and gritty fantasy story, it would have been a poetic conclusion. But, alas, there is a happy ending and since I know a lot of you need to know that everything will end up alright in some way, don’t worry. You will not be left wit a bleeding heart! Since HEAs or at least HFNs are ‘required’ for M/M stories, I won’t take away from my rating, just because I personally don’t need them to have a HEA. And in fact, the ending that does happen left me happy and with a smile on my lips *g*
Again, ABSOLUTE ‘must read’ for fantasy fans and easy to read even for people with little fantasy experience!
10 out of 10 pots of gold
Hello all, and thank you so much for joining me to chat about the queer high fantasy duology Song of the Fallen! This series holds a particularly special place in my heart, not just because I absolutely adore high fantasy and sloooooooooooooow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance and there isn’t nearly enough of any of that to go round in queer fiction, but also because Counterpoint, the first book in the duology, was the first novel I ever sold.
One of the questions I—and probably most published authors—get asked the most often is how I got published. The path of the Song of the Fallen novels was both particularly easy and particularly fraught—Counterpoint is now at its third publisher (if you count a brief interlude of self-pub), and Crescendo, the second book in the duology, is also at its third publisher without any self-pub interludes. Though Counterpoint came out in 2010 and Crescendo in 2011, this month marks the very first time they have both been under the same roof—complete with gorgeous new cover art!—and I couldn’t be happier to have them there.
But when I first sold Counterpoint, it was to a teeny little startup epub called Guiltless Pleasure Publishing. The editor actually came to me, which was an unparalleled delight—she’d read and loved my fanfiction and wanted to sign me for original work. (Note: now that I’m an acquiring editor who also loves fanfic, I have the pleasure of doing this too.) She actually signed me on proposal, which, looking back, was pretty outrageously lucky for a first-time novelist.
What was meant to be one book of about 80,000 words grew and grew as the writing progressed (*shakes fist at high fantasy*), and at 120,000 words I found a natural conclusion to the first half of the story arc and told her there was no way to do this without a book 2. She agreed, and I set off to write Crescendo while Counterpoint went into edits.
Counterpoint came out to a fairly large splash, though I was new to queer romance and didn’t know it at the time. Again, looking back, I was pretty outrageously lucky. Unfortunately, halfway through Crescendo edits, the owner of Guiltless Pleasure came down with a serious, long-term illness, and despite Counterpoint’s success, she had to close up shop. Which left me with not one but two books without a home, one of which was literally paying my bills and the other of which was an eagerly awaited sequel. So, very slightly older and very slightly wiser than I’d been a year past, I self-pubbed Counterpoint, and went publisher shopping for a home for Crescendo. I was fortunate in that Counterpoint had sold well enough to open a lot of potential doors for Crescendo, but ultimately I went with another small press that was willing to use the same cover artist and offer very competitive royalty terms.
I won’t get into details, but more or less from the moment I signed the contract to the moment I got the rights back to that book three years later, that experience was an unmitigated disaster. Thankfully, in the meanwhile, me and some writer and publisher buddies launched Riptide. I’d self-pubbed Counterpoint around January of 2011, and in December of 2011 I signed the rights over to Riptide instead, where it nestled in quite comfortably and saw a huge sales boost thanks to Riptide’s amazing marketing department. Around the same time, Crescendo released at the other publisher while I stared longingly at it and wished I’d conceived of Riptide before I’d signed over the second book.
So, like I said, weirdly easy but also kind of fraught. Fast forward three years, to just last month. I get rights back to Crescendo. It needs new cover art, so we decide, hey, let’s give the whole series a face lift. Plus, I’d been very excited about the work this particular cover artist had been doing for us (her name is Simoné, and I highly encourage you to check her out), and I was dying to get a cover from her on one of my books. Or, better yet, two of my books!
And so here we are. Three publishers and two covers per book, and my very first novel and its sequel are finally at home at Riptide. If you’ve read them, thank you from the bottom of my heart for making literally my entire writing career possible. If you haven’t, I hope you’ll consider sharing my babies with me
To help make that possible, I’m giving away a signed set of the Song of the Fallen paperbacks with the gorgeous new cover art. I’ll ship anywhere in the world, too. To enter, just leave a comment with a way to contact you if you win. You can enter multiple times by commenting on each blog this re-release tour stops at, so be sure to visit the other stops!
Rachel is an M/M erotic romance author and the Publisher of Riptide Publishing. She’s also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.
When she’s not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.
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