My first review just went live on TRR!! Here it is:
The Brush Whistler's Song by Augusta Li
What would you do if everything you believed was called into question? What if you found out you were wrong?
Young Arjin is caught in the web of an ancient truce. Barely into his
adulthood, he is given as tribute to the mysterious Najadira, part of a
race of nigh-immortal horned warriors known as the Ansari. But Arjin is
no innocent. Since his childhood, he has been trained for this day,
groomed by the temple priests for a singular purpose: not to please the
Ansari, but to murder him and free his people from the terms of their
Najadira, though, is old and jaded, and unsurprised by Arjin's true
nature. Still, he chooses to keep Arjin near to him, finding that the
young man's zeal quickens his old blood like few before him ever did. He
allows Arjin access into his world, a world of beauty and wonder that
had before now been denied. And as Arjin learns more about Najadira, he
begins to question his teachings about the Ansari. Ultimately, he must
choose between taking a life in the service of his beliefs or abandoning
his duty and thereby condemning his soul to the decadence and sin
This is an interesting story about discovering oneself and getting
second chances. The entire story revolves around only Arjin and
Najadira, as there are no secondary characters to speak of. This book's
plot is very interesting. Usually, in most books, the big problem(s)
that the characters have to overcome in order to get their happy ever
after are big, external, out of the heroes' control that they must fight
against. Well in this book, it's a bit different. Arjin has to overcome
the false beliefs instilled in him while Najadira has to overcome his
ennui. The characters are their own worst and sole enemies, which is an
unusual twist. Most books have a hint of that, but that was all this
book was about. Now that may not sound very exciting, but Ms. Li does a
wonderful job of portraying their inner struggles, particularly Arjin's.
I felt connected to the characters and eagerly reading to try and learn
more about both of them.
Arjin first comes off as a righteous warrior, but then he turns into a
bit of a brat. A confused, young, tad naïve brat, but still a brat. He
was raised with strict morals, yet the very things he was trained to do
go against his faith. There were parts of the story where I just wanted
to smack some sense in him and tell him to let his stubbornness go.
Najadira is a bit of a mystery. He doesn't entirely make sense for most
of the book, until you discover all the reasons he let Arjin stay and
why he is who he is now. I just wanted to cry for him, cuddle him, and
let him know everything would be okay.
The world in this book is very fascinating. There is a clear divide
between the humans and the Ansari. The main human religion, the group
that trained Arjin, believes that pleasure and anything related to it
are immoral, including homosexuality. Meanwhile, the Ansari celebrate
all things pleasure related. These differences are very extreme, yet Ms.
Li doesn't make them seem too fantastical or unbelievable. In my mind, I
saw the human's world as being like the Dark Ages while the Ansari's
world was reminiscent of the decadence of the Renaissance at its peak.
They are almost exact opposites, which makes the clash of wills and
minds between Arjin and Najadira even more interesting.
Now, the only problem I had with this book was also with the plot. It
seemed to drag on at times and while I like the idea of the book being
solely about the two characters coming to terms with themselves and one
another, there were parts of the story I was tempted to skip, that gave
me a "been there, done that" feeling. I think if the story had been
shorter or had some more external forces in play, it would have been
more exciting and wouldn't have dragged along as much.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed this book. It was a very unusual read and
Ms. Li is a wonderful writer. I would definitely recommend this to
anyone looking to try something new.