Audiobook Review: Song of the Last Kingdom #1

Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amelie Wen Zhao

Publication Date: January 3, 2023

Summary from GoodReads:

In a fallen kingdom, one girl carries the key to discovering the secrets of her nation’s past—and unleashing the demons that sleep at its heart. An epic fantasy series inspired by the mythology and folklore of ancient China.

Once, Lan had a different name. Now she goes by the one the Elantian colonizers gave her when they invaded her kingdom, killed her mother, and outlawed her people’s magic. She spends her nights as a songgirl in Haak’gong, a city transformed by the conquerors, and her days scavenging for what she can find of the past. Anything to understand the strange mark burned into her arm by her mother in her last act before she died.

The mark is mysterious—an untranslatable Hin character—and no one but Lan can see it. Until the night a boy appears at her teahouse and saves her life.

Zen is a practitioner—one of the fabled magicians of the Last Kingdom. Their magic was rumored to have been drawn from the demons they communed with. Magic believed to be long lost. Now it must be hidden from the Elantians at all costs.

When Zen comes across Lan, he recognizes what she is: a practitioner with a powerful ability hidden in the mark on her arm. He’s never seen anything like it—but he knows that if there are answers, they lie deep in the pine forests and misty mountains of the Last Kingdom, with an order of practitioning masters planning to overthrow the Elantian regime.

Both Lan and Zen have secrets buried deep within—secrets they must hide from others, and secrets that they themselves have yet to discover. Fate has connected them, but their destiny remains unwritten. Both hold the power to liberate their land. And both hold the power to destroy the world.


I think I need to stop listening to long epic fantasy stories at least for a little while. I’m just finding it hard to keep the story and the characters straight when there are 15+ hours of listening. They just seem to start to drag and I get confused at times when I am not able to listen to the book on a consistent basis. All of that said, I just found myself not enjoying this as much as I thought I would and I really think it is more on me than on the story itself or the narrator.

I think my main issue with the story is it seemed at times to move incredibly slowly, with really fast and short bursts of action in a few places. There was also a lot of info dumping about the world, especially at the beginning, that often took away from the story and from the characters. But those luckily are my biggest complaints.

I really liked Lan and Zen who share the narration of the story. They are both very damaged characters, but they also have a lot of strength to them. I really liked their character development over the course of the book and I enjoyed watching their feelings for each other blossom and change.

Even though the world building was a little confusing at times, I did like it. I don’t know anything about Chinese mythology or folklore, so I cannot speak to its authenticity, but it was very interesting. Especially the parts about the demon gods and how they are used by practitioners at great costs to them and their people. The magical aspects were also a bit confusing, especially as there were two forms of it. The Elantians have a totally different magical system based on metal, that wasn’t explained all that well, but sounded interesting.

The writing was lush and very descriptive and really made the world and the characters come alive. The pacing really hindered the whole story though. As I said before most of the story goes by slowly with short bursts of action, until you get to the last hour and a half of the book, and then it is non stop action.

I thought the narrator, Annie Q, did a good job. She was able to capture the different characters and their personalities well. I especially liked her voice for the Elatian magician who terrorizes Lan and Zen throughout the book. (Sorry I can’t remember his name.)

Overall I didn’t think this was a bad book and I know there are many out there who love it, so take this review with a grain of salt. I have seen some other reviews that had the same issue as myself, and a few who take issue with the author’s portrayal of the chinese mythologies. These reviewers appeared to be of asian descent and seemed to know what they are talking about. I suggest that you do a little research before deciding if this is the right book for you.

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