ARC Review: The Song of the Marked (Shadows & Crowns #1) by S.M. Gaither

3.5-4/5

Thank you to Book of Matches Media and the author for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

The Song of the Marked by S.M. Gaither cover

I usually start off my reviews with a summary, but I’ve been struggling with this one because I have no idea how to summarize this. Part of my struggles with this book was that there wasn’t an overwhelming uniting plot to me. Sure Casia went on different quests and was always doing something, but for me the driving force that should unite all these singular events was not there.

Let’s backtrack a bit. Casia Greythorne is a mercenary and she does what she must to protect herself and her family. But she has a dangerous secret: she’s fade-marked. The devastating illness called the Fading Sickness has been ravaging the country and she is only survivor, and that has come with a cost: her entire physical appearance has been altered to shades of gray. The King is known to be a persecutor of anyone who carries magic and Casia knows being fade-marked makes her a target, but when she’s put in a tough situation she has no choice but to work with the King and his Captain of the Guard, Elander.

If you’re looking for a plot I guess the main thing is Casia and Elander trying to investigate the Fade sickness and find a cure, but the way this mystery was set out was jumbled. It also could’ve been my mood. Lately, I haven’t been feeling reading, unless the book is unapologetically queer. And that’s totally on me, not this book. None of these things were deal breakers for me, and given my weird brain funk lately I’m chalking it all up to being the wrong time for this book. Let’s talk about all the great things this story has to offer!

The mythology within the country of Kethra was absolutely magnificent. There was a whole pagan set of gods and goddesses. I loved all the different “levels”(?), might not be the right word. Can I please have an encyclopedia of all the gods in this world? I want to learn more right now.

Then there’s Cas. I really liked Cas. She struggles with PTSD and anxiety and it’s never shied away from in this book. Cas has several ways of coping with her anxiety attacks and she uses them throughout the story. Having such a badass as an MC, but someone who also suffers from mental illness was absolutely awesome. It really shows that people with mental illness are still people. They’re still amazing, strong and can be badass.

Cas has several close friends she brings with her to the castle. I loved how close she was with Rhea and Zev. And then her sort of adoptive mother Asra. It was so precious. They were all so caring for each other and that is absolutely what I wanted more of.

Then there’s Elander. I wasn’t sure what to think of him at first. The way his relationship with Cas developed was really well done. They had some good jibs and banter, but also a couple soft moments, including a steamy scene. The ending was a bit wild. I was confused at parts, even though I guessed the “big reveal”. The way the “villain” was revealed was kind of anti-climactic, because I was just so confused to their motivations in the moment.

All in all, this was a pretty interesting read: great characters, awesome world building, choppy plot though still entertaining. I’d be interested in reading the second book.

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