Allaigna’s Song: Overture
By JM Landels
Pulp Literature Press (288 pages, $17.99 paperback, $6.49 eBook, July 2017)
I’m a fan of the slow reveal in fiction, particularly if the writer provides just enough detail to intrigue you and increase the tension, but makes you wait to get a clearer picture about what’s going on. That’s part of the reason why Fringe is one of my all-time favorite shows. Building that tension and deciding what information to provide to the reader (or viewer) and when is very tricky; I’ve been told that some of my published stories have pulled it off, but I’ve written other pieces that totally buggered it up. And one thing I’ve never attempted is doing so with parallel narratives in a single work, where the connection isn’t clear at the outset and the tonal change is severe, since I’m always afraid that doing so will throw off my readers.
But in Allaigna’s Song: Overture, Jen Landels manages to avoid all of that, as she tells the story of child Allaigna and parallels it with two other narratives that, over time, are revealed to be the stories of her mother and grandmother. While the core is Allaigna’s discovery of her royal family’s true heritage and her capacity for magic, our real understanding of the world and the Game of Thrones-esque politics involving her family comes from these parallel narratives, since Allaigna is kept out of a lot of discussions and sometimes doesn’t understand or care about what’s really going on. The really neat thing is that when these parallel narratives first appear, there’s no indication about who we’re looking at or where the story has moved to – the first flashback to “Lauresa,” for example, occurs before we learn that Lauresa is Allaigna’s mother’s name – and there’s a shift in tense and narrative structure, which is really experimental and something I’ve never attempted. But Landels pulls it off, constructing a great slow reveal as details come to light.
The only catch is that the story of Lauresa and Irdaign, Allaigna’s grandmother, was way more engaging for me than Allaigna’s coming-of-age story, but that’s probably just my bias (I’m more drawn to horse chases and fights than palace intrigue and stories about children). Even so, this entire novel is really elegantly constructed, boasting a subtle and well-thought out magic system based on music, on top of everything else. I’d highly recommend checking it out – and if you like it, the second novel, Allaigna’s Song: Aria, is being serialized in the magazine PULP Literature, where Overture first appeared.
An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has been published in On Spec, Third Flatiron Anthologies, and elsewhere. Check out Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation on Amazon now, featuring his short story “Pop and the CFT.” Learn more at brandoncrilly.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @B_Crilly