Reviewed by D.N. Frost for Readers' Favorite
Songs of Insurrection by JC Kang is Book One of The Dragon Songs Saga from the Legends of Tivara series. This book was previously published with a different cover under the title The Dragon Scale Lute, Book One of the Daughter of the Dragon Throne series. In a magical world inspired by ancient imperial China, Kaiya is an unmarried daughter of the all-powerful emperor. When a loveless arranged marriage threatens to rob her of her greatest joy, she embarks on a defiant and clandestine adventure to resurrect the ancient practice of wielding magic through music. Encouraged by the handsome foreign prince of a war-torn nation, Kaiya acquires priceless musical artifacts, invades ancient performance halls, and embraces the mystic knowledge of a centuries-old elf to unleash her magic. But unrest brews in her father's empire. Rival ninja clans support rebellious feudal lords who stockpile illegal gunpowder to prepare for their coup. With spies and traitors all around, Kaiya seeks to harness the power of her music before her country falls to ruin.
JC Kang presents a heavily male-dominant society, leveraging this stark backdrop for two powerful and free-spirited females to break the mold. The princess's romantic subplot is elegantly crafted, capturing the thrills of first love and advancing the grander plot rather than supplanting it. Kang contrasts the lofty and well-clad dangers of court intrigue with the immediacy of espionage agents in the line of duty, and he deftly brings these two worlds to collide in an epic finale. Breathtaking in its detail and resplendent with features unique to epic fantasy as a whole, Songs of Insurrection delivers a stellar cast of characters, each with his or her own skills, strengths, and flaws. As Kang unravels the enchanting mysteries of music and sound, he toggles from the princess's romance to the covert spies and espionage that make this story truly shine. With swift punchy prose and a quick, clear writing style, Kang deftly escalates the plot from the tale of a dissident princess to a story of mass insurrection and international politics. Blow by blow, Kang artfully raises the stakes for an exciting read that is impossible to put down.