Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all get to talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week is all about music and books (apparently it was meant to be specifically songs, but I have gone astray a little)
Music is a recurring theme (err, sorry) in the books I read. Music in movies can make me cry with practically no help from the movie itself; musicians in books often have the same effect, so I’m choosing to make this week all about my favourite fictional musicians. And I’m going to try really hard not to make it all about Guy Gavriel Kay.
Lisseut in A Song for Arbonne – I mean, obviously. It’s set in an alternative Provence fighting for music, courtly love and women’s rights. It features musicians pranking one another and writing sad songs. I’ve always loved Lisseut, who proves that women can be bards in their own right when you’re supposedly an egalitarian society in the first place thank you very much.
Maddyn in A Time of Omens – this is one of my favourite Deverry novels (also, check out the gorgeous cover art). Maddyn is outcast for surviving his lord in battle, but gets rescued by a wizard and accidentally beguiles the Wildfolk with his music. That has fateful consequences – everything does, in Deverry – but I loved Maddyn’s story from start to tragic finish.
The Sparrow – I loved the conceit that the fastest way to achieve interstellar travel was to give the Church cause to go to the stars. Seriously, put that Vatican money to good use and forget the politics. Someone up there is making beautiful music. Sadly, Church-sponsored first contact goes horribly wrong, but the personal stories are lovely (especially Anne/George – old people have sex in space FTW).
The Fionavar Tapestry – like I was ever going to be able to stop at one GGK novel. Music defines so much of his work (honestly, I’m not going to include Tigana, but I could and should) and ripples through The Fionavar Tapestry from start to finish. Paul and Rachel, Kevin, even Galadan – music is shamelessly used to break my heart into tiny pieces and stomp all over them. In a good way, yeah?
Fflewddur Fflam in The Chronicles of Prydain – a would-be bard with a talent for embellishing the truth, Fflewddur is gifted a charmed harp that makes beautiful music – and breaks strings when he lies. He gets to be tragic, comic and heroic all wrapped up in one adorable parcel. He doesn’t appear in any of the cover art for my editions, sadly.
Arithon in Curse of the Mistwraith – I need to revisit this (I read it with a migraine: don’t, it’s too dense), but Arithon is the archetypal chaotic good pirate king bard multi-class* that I have a soft spot for. Of course he must choose between music and might; of course he may have magic; of course he’s cast as a villain and of course he’ll try to do the right thing. Predictable? Sure, but very classy.
Brin Ohmsford in The Wishsong of Shannara – I loved the idea of the wishsong – and I love the way Brin wields it. She’s a great character (in spite of just how hard Brooks tries to undermine her) – brave, bright, determined, and resourceful. Sod the ‘women can’t be trusted with power’ trope – sing the world to its knees.
The Silmarillion – I have such a soft spot for this epic world-building exercise, and it gets bonus points for both creating the universe through song and giving the Elves magic singing powers. One of the great scenes is Finrod Felagund battling Sauron with songs of power in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth (although I also like Luthien singing Morgoth’s court to sleep in Angband).
I’m saving the last two spots – there’s a lot of books about musicians on my reading list.
Honourable mention goes to George R. R. Martin for The Rains of Castamere – it doesn’t win him a spot, because he has no central musician that I love (although Mance Rayder comes close), but points for making a song a powerful political statement. Dishonourable mention to The Name of the Wind, which should seem like an obvious choice for this list – but Kvothe just gets right up my nose.
* I need to acknowledge here that when I say archetypal, I can’t think of another character with this combination. But something about it feels so terribly familiar and right, as though I’d been reading about them for years. Err, any ideas?