Songs of the Earth is a slightly derivative high fantasy of the kind where magic users are persecuted by a pseudo-Christian capital-C Church. (I am in general not very impressed by Fantasy Pseudo-Christian Capital-C Churches. I am particularly unimpressed when it is also mentioned that the persecution is a fairly recent thing that happened after years of having magic users fighting for the Church.) Despite the persecution, the magic users do their best to protect the world from the entities that lie beyond “the Veil” in the reality next door to their own.
Our Hero is a young man named Gair, who had been training as a holy knight of the Church. Unfortunately, he is also a magic user, and he is going to be burnt at the stake as a witch. His sentence is commuted to exile with a very short length of time to get out of town when he is pretty much crippled from having been tortured. He is rescued by another magic user, and there are some slight mishaps due to Gair and his new friend being pursued by a witchfinder.
Gair eventually finds himself at a secret school for magic users! Gair has a number of adventures and it is revealed that he is an extremely powerful magic user with a number of extremely rare and unusual abilities. (That he had actually been practicing on his own, which is why he had gotten caught.) Gair also ends up in a slightly illicit romantic relationship with one of his teachers.
Meanwhile, there is some political strife within the Church! And also, the Veil between realities is being breached, and creatures from the other side are coming through! And there is a really truly evil wizard who was apparently born evil who is trying to do something evil! (Note: I was not very impressed by the evil wizard who was born evil.) At least two of these things probably have something to do with the other.
I was strongly reminded of Judith Tarr’s Hound and Falcon books, though in mostly a negative way. That is to say, Songs of the Earth deals with themes similar to those in Hound and Falcon, but does not actually explore them. Gair is a great deal like Alf, in that both characters are intensely religious, but where Judith Tarr explores the interaction between what Alf was taught and what he comes to believe, we do not get a similar journey with Gair. Instead, we get a kind of confused muddle in between his affair with his teacher and the main plot which involves a breach in the Veil between realities.
This is one of those books where I ended up doing a lot of skimming because nothing really interesting was happening. When I checked this book out I also checked out the second book in this series, but I may not read it, because Songs of the Earth really didn’t leave much of an impression with me. There wasn’t anything very objectionable with the book, but there also wasn’t anything engaging or captivating about it for me.