ARC Review: Sistersong by Lucy Holland

About the Book:

Title: Sistersong

Author: Lucy Holland

Page Length: 416

Publication Date: April 1, 2021

Publisher: Macmillan

Synopsis: 535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.

Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.
Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter.
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.

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My Review:

Sistersong is a feminist reimagining of the ballad “The Twa Sisters,” and it follows three sisters, Riva, Sinne, and Keyne, who are daughters of the king. Holland’s writing is beautiful and immersive and easily pulls you into 6th-century Britain, a time when Christianity and paganism are at conflict and the ever-present threat of invading Saxons looms. I found this part of the book really interesting, as I don’t know much about the time period, and the author’s knowledge is vast.

The story is told from each of the sisters’ perspectives as they try to traverse these complicated times, hold onto their beliefs and ideals, and embrace their identities. Riva is the eldest sister, a young woman who has been horribly burned and scarred from a fire. Though she questions her marriageability, she falls in love with a mysterious stranger. Keyne is the middle sister, who was born female but identifies as male and struggles to find their place in the world. Sinne is the youngest sister, and she longs for adventure, romance, and love. Of the three sisters, I found Keyne’s story the most compelling. However, each sister has a strong voice and an interesting story arc.

This is your story, no matter what history will claim or what songs people sing. And it’s no one’s place to stop you from telling it.

Each sister also has a unique magical power, which could prove dangerous in their world. Riva has the ability to heal, though she can’t heal herself. Keyne has a connection to nature, like their father, and Sinne can influence people’s thoughts. I enjoyed reading each of their perspectives and seeing how each dealt with the changing and dangerous times, as well as the personal obstacles that stood in their way. Including all three of their points of view gives an in-depth view of the thoughts and feelings of each young woman, which I loved.

A unique blend of history, mythology, and fantasy, Sistersong includes themes of family, love, loyalty, religion, and gender identity. It’s about familial expectations, societal and religious pressures, and political manipulations, and it also highlights accepting and being true to yourself. The themes are universal, relevant, and poignant, as is the strong prose.

The detailed setting, the magic, the dynamic characterization, the mystery, and more make for an interesting read, and the writing is beautifully lyrical. I think the book will appeal to readers of retellings, myths, and folklore. Thanks so much to NetGalley, Lucy Holland, and Redhook Books for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.


Favorite Parts:

  • The character development.
  • The rich history.
  • The magic.

Favorite Lines:

There is freedom in choosing to live from moment to moment, safe from past and future…Now is a place where I can choose not to be afraid.

Grimness clings to her like winter mist that rarely cedes to sunshine.

A woman can fight and is no less a woman. A man can be a woman. A woman can be a man. And then there are those who choose to be both or neither. Do you see now, Keyne, how foolish are the names we force on people before they’re even able to speak?

The only names that matter are the ones we take for ourselves.

5 thoughts on “ARC Review: Sistersong by Lucy Holland

  1. i’ve been unsure as to whether i want to read this as i wasn’t sure it was for me but i think you’ve convinced me to give it a go, i really enjoy books that blend history and mythology. great review!

  2. Great review, Julie 🙂 I gotta admit I didn’t feel compelled to read this before your review but my interest has been piqued! I love a good story about sisters and this period/setting is one that I don’t normally read about so that’s unique too!

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