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Steward of Song: A tale of human murder - and faery consequences    by Adam Stemple order for
Steward of Song
by Adam Stemple
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Given his obvious talent in writing fantasy, I was not surprised to learn that Adam Stemple is Jane Yolen's son, but he has his own distinctive voice. His latest, Steward of Song, is a sequel to Singer of Souls. Though I had not read the latter (and now plan to), I was able to catch up on the backstory and enjoy this noir urban fantasy adventure.

On his website, the author tells us that Singer of Souls 'is about a self-obsessed musician with a drug problem'. Its antihero, Douglas Stewart, fled a life of drugs and petty crime in the United States to stay with his stern Grandma McLaren in Scotland. After his life as a busker in Edinburgh was interrupted by war between the fey, he ended up on the throne of Faery, with its previous occupant Queen Aine (formerly his mistress) bespelled in a form of stasis.

Douglas now wields all powerful singing magic. His faithful bogie lieutenant Martes serves him but balks at his liege lord's plan to kill his own son. Instead, the babe is delivered to Douglas's brother Scott, a traumatized Iraqi war veteran, who hides from the world in a cottage in the western Massachusetts woods. Scott has a talent for prescience - he senses bad things coming - which is fortunate as there plenty are heading his way.

In parallel with Scott's inheriting the unwanted responsibility for his infant nephew, Douglas's tough-minded, tough-talking sister Bridie arrives in Edinburgh, intent on dealing with whoever is responsible for their grandmother's gruesome death - the fact that her brother Douglas is the chief suspect does not make the local constabulary welcome her, despite her years of experience as a Massachusetts cop. However Detective Inspector Hamilton allows her to participate in aspects of their investigation, hoping she will help bring her brother into custody. Instead, she ends up in the land of the Sidhe.

Back in the U.S.A., Scott has found help - in childcare, housecleaning and defense against besieging monsters - from brownies, hobs, and a Native American god named Mundoo. It's badly needed beacuse a creature named Oobel hungers for the 'little fleshie' that Scott has named Fletcher, and has found a powerful ally, one 'wise and sly and evil beyond measure'. Soon it's all out war in the Massachusetts woods.

A crone drives a hard bargain. Bridie and Scott team up to save their nephew against heavy odds, a power struggle begins in Faery, and - after blindness reveals a way - Douglas faces a hard choice and learns to hope. I will be fascinated to see where Adam Stemple takes his unusual story next.

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