Review: Song of Trails (Singer Tales)

After reading Deborah Grace White's Sacrificed Hearts book, Island of Secrets and Sacrifice, I decided to check out Haiden's origin story in the Singer Tales after reading most of the other books in the series. Song of Trails is a retelling of "Hansel and Gretel" set in the world of the Singer Tales. Though "Hansel and Gretel" has never been one of my favorites, this book featured Prince Otto as a love interest, who I had previously admired as Rosa's stepbrother in Song of Moonrise. With so many familiar characters, this book should have been the perfect storm to improve upon the original fairy tale. However, it follows a "road trip" format that drags on and on to the point where nothing interesting happens until close to the end.


Gisela and Haiden are troubled children whose mother regularly tried to abandon them in the woods after an elf prophesized that Haiden would use his singer powers to take down a kingdom someday. Overly protective of her brother, Gisela does everything she can to keep them safe, even when that means running away from their childhood home and surviving on their own in the woods. Years later, when they get lost among the many enchanted even trails dotting the forest one day and cross paths with Prince Otto and his traveling party. Otto's heart goes out to the two beleaguered siblings, and he offers to let them travel with him. The group continues traveling through the woods getting to know each other better in the process, while Gisela keeps her guard up to try to prevent Otto from learning about the prophecy. Much of the book continues his way with little action or progression to the story.

In the final third, the traveling party encounters a wicked woman who kidnaps singers. This is meant to tie into the wicked witch character from "Hansel and Gretel," but there is no magical gingerbread house or oven. In fact, the ties to "Hansel and Gretel" are rather vague and mostly metaphorical. Between the two stories, the original fairy tale is more interesting than this generic road trip that ends with a stereotypical fairy tale romance. This is unusual for Deborah Grace White's books. Many of her other Singer Tale retellings improve upon the original fairy tales. Since "Hansel and Gretel" was not originally a love story, the romance comes off as forced. Prince Otto admires Gisela for her determination to protect her brother, and she must learn to let her guard down to trust him. Their dynamic is similar to the love story in "The Wild Swans," which may have provided a better basis for this book than "Hansel and Gretel."

Like the other books in the Singer Tales, this story has a strong cast of supplemental characters. The side romance between Valerie and Monty, who travel with the group, is in some ways more interesting than Gisela and Otto. There is also a lot of drama with the elf family and their unique system of values and government. Deborah Grace White's development of the elves in the Singer Tales as a neuro-divergent magical race with their own morals and speech patterns is similar to how she builds up dragon culture in several of her other series. She excels at worldbuilding, and this book is no exception. However, so much of it consists of nothing but characters walking and talking that it couldn't hold my interest like some of the more action-packed books I have read from her in the past.

Song of Trails falls short of its potential as the penultimate entry in the Singer Tales series. Despite featuring beloved characters and a richly detailed world, the book's meandering "road trip" format and forced romance between Gisela and Prince Otto make it a disappointing read. While Deborah Grace White's worldbuilding and supplemental characters shine as always, the story's slow pace and lack of meaningful plot progression hinder its ability to engage. Compared to other books in the series, Song of Trails fails to improve upon the original fairy tale of "Hansel and Gretel," making it a skippable entry in the Singer Tales series.

Comments

Sugar said…
I guess Haiden will be the hero of the next book...
Lisa Dawn said…
Haiden was the hero of Island of Secrets and Sacrifice, which was Deborah Grace White's contribution to the Sacrificed Hearts series. Since the books were all written by different authors, she made hers take place in the same world as the Singer Tales so it would be a spin-off of sorts. I am about to share my review of the last book from this series.

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