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Book review: Magpie's Song (The IronHeart Chronicles, # 1) by Allison Pang

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AUTHOR INFO: Allison Pang is the author of the urban fantasy Abby Sinclair series, as well as the writer for the webcomic Fox & Willow. She likes LEGOS, elves, LEGO elves…and bacon. She spends her days in Northern Virginia working as a cube grunt and her nights waiting on her kids, her cat, and her obnoxious northern-breed dog, punctuated by the occasional husbandly serenade. Sometimes she even manages to write. Mostly she just makes it up as she goes…

Publisher: Outland Entertainment (February 1, 2022) Length: 286 pages (paperback) Cover design: Jeremy D. Mohler Cover illustration: germancreative

OVERVIEW: Magpie's Song defies easy categorization. It mixes elements of steampunk, dystopia, coming-of-age, and dark fantasy into a singular blend.

BrightStone, ruled from above by the technologically advanced Meridians, is a dangerous city rife with crime and poverty. Its citizens struggle with everyday life, lack of perspectives, and a rampant, deadly plague known as the Rot. Only the Moon Children, Meridian half-breeds, seem immune to the devastating effects of the disease. This makes them useful, but only to lead the victims of the rot into the dreaded Pits, a place no one returns from.

While you'll find snippets of humor here and there, the story goes into dark places and has a serious tone overall. The titular Magpie, a Moon Child known as Raggy Maggy, is a half-breed trapped between two worlds - the run-down city of BrightStone and the floating city of Meridion. When she's framed for a crime she didn't commit, she has to trust exiled Meridian doctor and a clanless Moon Child named Ghost to uncover the cause of the Rot and the secret of her own lineage.

Mags is a great character. An outcast who doesn't belong anywhere. She cares for one person. She finds her freedom dancing on rooftops and her skills at climbing, jumping, and gliding through the city would put most traceurs to shame. Only Ghost does it better than her.

She also has a clockwork heart, and it seems that a clockwork dragon found by a Meridion's dead body likes and follows her. An intriguing combination of a mysterious past and tenacious behavior won me over. I like Mag's voice. Sure, she makes bizarre decisions and trusts the wrong people, but hey, she's only nineteen.

CONCLUSION: Magpie's Song starts in the middle of the action and never slows down. Things happen, characters die, and at times I wasn't sure where it was all going, but I felt engaged throughout. The addition of a few subplots makes the narrative unfocused in places, but on a scene level, it never disappoints.

I thoroughly enjoyed Magpie's Song a lot and plan to continue the series.

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