The War of the Roses is over. Henry VII wedded Elizabeth of York, joining their noble families and putting an end to years of mindless bloodshed and tragedy. Not everyone is happy though, and a disgraced Yorkist nobleman seeks retribution: the murder of the royal family in order to install on the throne the imprisoned Plantagenet boy. The setting of his plot? The festivities for the birth of the heir apparent. England’s only chance? A sidhe, descendant of the Morrigan herself, who arrives in England bound by the call of an ancient oath, and twenty four women. Common, like the blackbird of the lullaby. Common enough to thwart a conspiracy that threatens to wreak havoc on their world.
❝ Sing a song for sixpence
A pocketful of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie ❞
Blackbirds Sing is an unexpectedly refreshing novel. The format itself is extraordinary; twenty four pieces of a puzzle, twenty four seemingly unrelated stories whose threads are woven together by a woman straight out of Irish mythology, one of the tuatha dé danann with grief in her heart and the grave determination to do right by an old geas and the people who have suffered on the whims of their superiors. A prostitute, a former nun, an assassin, a midwife, a healer, a blind musician, a thief, a servant and so many more, a cast of diverse women, a canvas full of stars that form a bright constellation. There was nothing awkward or out of place in Blackbirds Sing. Every single story was solid; starting off slowly, giving you the time to adjust to the life of the new heroine, and then plunging into the events with a potential to unravel history, enhanced by the outstandingly detailed and beautiful illustrations by Caitlyn McPherson. The tremendous amount of research conducted by Aiki Flinthart is evident and infuses the novel with authenticity, offering great insight on the daily lives of medieval women. But there is more than historical accuracy in the persons, their clothing, their alimentation, their professions, their lifestyle. There is heart in this novel. Enough heart to make you connect with the characters, care for them, share their worries and their joys and their sorrows, even shed a tear or two for everything they have sacrificed.
❝ For every woman who had lost a son or a husband or a father. For every innocent victim of these stupid men’s games of war and power. ❞
With the blackbirds’ song, Aiki Flinthart lends her voice to the nobodies and the nothings throughout the centuries, the women who lost everything in men’s pursuit of power and money, the women who were abused, manipulated, raped and manhandled, who were downright prohibited from pursuing their goals, whose dreams were beaten out of them, whose spirits were crushed and battered, who were forced to give up the ones they loved, who were sold like merchandise and yet persisted. And it is sad when you realize that, even after all these years, inequality and injustice are the society’s answer to the ones considered weak. The ones who are different. The ones who don’t fit the mold. It’s exactly this kind of injustice that Aiki Flinthart and her blackbirds fight tooth and nail, in small acts of rebellion to full-blown revolution.
❝ Maybe there’ll come a day when saving babies and mothers is easy. When keeping them alive is more important to men than killing each other over thrones and all. ❞
The only thing that slightly bothered me was the occasional difficulty to follow the different names and their capacities, but I suppose that’s to be expected from a scatterbrained lawyer who spends her days floating among contracts and loans while daydreaming of shedding her suit and donning her nerd-wear (i.e. her awesome pajamas). And, on a side note, if you’re not familiar with the basics from the War of the Roses, you may find yourself a little disoriented.
While reading Blackbirds Sing, you can feel it in your bones that Aiki Flinthart poured her soul into this novel, she sang her characters to life and the result was a powerful and inspiring historical fiction with just the right pinch of magic that was the best way to start this year’s SPFBO. I wish the author all the best in the competition and her future endeavors.