A friend who has been the source of a number of good recommendations over the years recommended Sing the Four Quarters back when it came out. It always stuck in my mind, and I’ve meant to get to it for… yeah. Anyway, I got the Kindle edition a while ago, and finally read it.

It’s good, but a little vague in places. The general fantasy premise is that there are kigh, who are elemental spirits, that some people can sense and influence, generally by singing. But while there are fire spirits, and fires would attract them, and they can affect the fire, the fire exists in the absence of the kigh, and still I don’t know just where they really exist in the nature of the world (though it does come out that they avoid the interiors of large buildings, but not really why).

This is something of an idealized ‘living nature’ magic, when you get down to it, which goes along with an idealized kingdom, with a good king, and an idealized other expansionist enemy kingdom across the border. There’s also what appears to be an idealized ‘free love’ aspect, but this is pretty obviously part and parcel of how this society works, and adults are left to be adults, and to work out the consequences of their own mistakes.

However, the characters, as people, do not fall into any of this idealization. The background may be painted in broad strokes, but the people involved are complex and fallible, and can have a heck of a time getting along with each other, even they do care about each other.

The plot takes a little bit to get going, and suffers a bit in places from a number of quick cuts as the action gets more complex than the narrative can handle. Also, its a bit transparent, and telegraphs where, in the main, it is going. But, it’s not plot by rote, and the journey is quite enjoyable. Definitely recommended, and I’m keeping an eye out for the later books, which I understand are not direct sequels.