The gains and losses of its citizenry had been gradual. Its resentments and injustices oozed like moisture down the dank wall of a forgotten reservoir, unremarked by either the clustered, crushing commonality or the Little Emperor, cloyed and gorged in his great gilt chambers. Drip, drip, until the dark water was high against its bowed, ill-repaired walls. Until it lapped at the foundations of palace and hovel alike.
Owl Abbas was a world unlike any other. An existence almost vile and desolate (reminiscent of the end of the world tales, only it’s not,) and while music wasn’t exactly forbidden, it was an artifact of millennia’s past, whose sole purpose was seemingly to be unearthed and ultimately, to bring about change.
But what lengths would the Little Emperor go to, in order to possess it? Can music actually be possessed?
Meanwhile, the fate of Excelsior, the Nightingale, and the masses remained uncertain.
Although Kathleen Jennings’ prose here can be somewhat verbose, and numerous unfamiliar words pulled me out of the narrative, these things almost don’t matter. Not to me, at least. The visuals were enticing, the prose itself beautiful. There was sufficient development in Excelsior and the Nightingale to satisfy. Owl Abbas itself (the city-state locale) was fairly detailed from the start, making it the introductory character.
As the passage above makes abundantly clear, establishing a firm setting was important to Jennings. On the heels of that, I instinctively knew that The Heart of Owl Abbas would resemble nothing I’ve ever read, and she delivered on every aspect. Above all, it’s enriched in originality and creativity, with a modest sprinkling of cleverness, resulting in a very memorable experience. It is one I hope to never forget.
In all earnestness, I’d be hard-pressed to find any flaws in Jennings’ tale. There is, however, one part which sticks out, and it revolves around the inevitable change that the power of music brings, and the fact that the climatic action isn’t shown; we’re told what happened. This isn’t necessarily constructive criticism, though. Somehow, she made it work. It really shouldn’t (after all, she broke the cardinal rule of writing,) yet it does work here. I’m still baffled as to how and why this worked. In hindsight, I cannot imagine it any other way. I think it was the best way to tell her story.
The Nightingale sang and Excelsior, weak and waiting, listened.