Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Posted On 12 November 2019

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 12 responses


Today I’m really pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Songs from the Deep for which I’ll be providing a review of the book.

Songs from the Deep is Kelly Powell’s debut and I must say I was very impressed with her writing which is both evocative and elegant.  I can say without doubt that this is an author that I will watch with interest.

So, to the story.  It won’t come as a surprise, given the fantastic cover, that sirens play a part in Songs from the Deep.  But, to be absolutely clear from the outset, the sirens are like a silent partner.  They’re there, they’re both the catalyst for the story and the key attraction that brings tourists to the island and readers to the book, but they don’t take an active part as such other than being present and causing fascination and fear in fairly equal measure.  I suppose it’s like reading about an island surrounded by sharks, you might be absolutely fascinated by them, drawn to the coastline to observe them, recognising all the time their deadly nature.  They’re not your friend and by the same token they’re not cruel – it’s their nature to hunt.  People may be killed by the sharks and this might feed into the story but the sharks are little more than the means of death – and so are the sirens.

The small island of Twillengyle is made famous by the sirens that frequent it’s waters.  Tourists flock to the island regardless of the danger that these exotic creatures pose and every year deaths ensue.  The islanders know better than to fall prey, they carry iron about there person at all times and don’t make a habit of standing at the water’s edge looking for the creatures – of course on an island where fishermen make their living avoiding the water is an impossibility and death an inevitability.

So, as the story begins we meet Moira, a young woman who prefers her own company to that of others.  She seems to be ill at ease with many of the people on the island, including her own mother, and prefers her own company, whiling the time away playing her violin on the cliff edge whilst the sirens lounge on the beach below.  Moira is fascinated by the sirens.  Her father likewise was drawn to them and indeed wanted to protect them helping to enforce a hunting ban before his untimely death.  As Moira prepares to make her way home she bumps into Jude.  Jude was a childhood friend but the two have grown apart, both have lost family to the sirens but that shared loss, rather than creating a bond, has served to push the two apart.  On this day, Jude is visibly shaken, he’s come across the body of a small boy on the beach.  The immediate conclusion is that this is another victim of the sirens but Moira isn’t convinced.  To cut to the chase Moira and Jude will eventually team up, resparking their friendship and indeed coaxing a little romance into the pages, whist they try to convince the other villagers of the siren’s innocence.  Of course, if the sirens didn’t kill the boy then that means there’s a killer on the island!

Songs from the Deep is really a historical cosy mystery with supernatural elements being thrown in in order to provide credible sea monsters.  I suppose, in fairness, the sirens could have been replaced by any sea predator but the sirens do add an ethereal and fascinating quality to the story that maybe wouldn’t have been quite so bewitching by the addition of finned critters.  Stories of sirens and siren songs are not a new phenomena and their inclusion gives the story and the place a magical and yet sinister quality.

Added to this the lovely writing really does help to conjure the place in the mind’s eye and this was one of the really winning elements of the story for me.  The beauty of the island shines through but at the same time is tempered with the brutality and harsh living.  You can practically taste the sea air and hear the waves crashing.  There’s an almost oppressive ‘small island mentality’ feel to the place, everyone knows everyone else and yet family secrets give the place a dark foreboding feel.

In terms of the characters.  I can’t deny that Moira is at first a little difficult to like.  I can’t really pin down why and maybe I’m being a bit unfair to her in some respects but she also doesn’t really do herself any favours.  She comes across as sullen, sulky and a bit bossy at first.  But, as the story developed there was something trying to break through to the surface.  Moira herself has been keeping secrets and her withdrawal is almost like a form of protection.  She doesn’t easily mix with others and on top of that her obsession with the sirens, on an island that has seen a good deal of loss because of them, doesn’t endear her to some of the villagers.  Jude on the other hand is warm and likable.  He has an easy going nature and is lovely to read about and in fact his renewed friendship with Moira is definitely something that helps to soften her edges a little.  In fact there is one scene where Jude is ensconced with a crowd of people from the island and Moira comes across them.  In that particular scene you can really see the gulf between her and the others but more than that there’s a kind of longing inside her to not always be so isolated and remote – she almost envies Jude is easy going nature and ability to make friends but at the same time she feels powerless to act the same.  It’s a bit like telling somebody who is shy not to be shy.  This is who Moira is and though she might hope to be different it isn’t easy.

The sense of place is good here.  The historical element keeps the murder mystery alive longer than it could have survived in a modern story.  There’s no such thing as a murder scene, no mobile phones with instant pictures and videos and quick means of contacting people.  Twillengyle lacks all sorts of modern conveniences and when the sun sinks in the evening it becomes a dark island where it’s easy to imagine danger hiding.

In terms of criticisms.  I have very little to be honest other than a few words of caution.  Moira and Jude make rather bumbling amateur detectives.  Their attempts to uncover truths are far from sophisticated and more than uncovering things their actions draw unwelcome attention.  I kind of liked this aspect though which probably sounds a little crazy.  They’re two teenagers trying to uncover the truth (whilst hiding a good deal of things from each other).  I think it would be unrealistic for them to come across as little more than amateur sleuths.  Also, like I said above, the sirens play a minor role here but again this didn’t really bother me to be honest.  I suppose you could say I came for the sirens and stayed for the story.

Overall I found this a captivating and very quick read.  The writing is lovely and I really enjoyed the setting, the cosy mystery and the remote and other worldly feel.  I would say this is YA, there is mention of death and there’s also romance but neither element are really strongly described.

My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of Songs from the Deep through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Further Information:

Author’s page

Goodreads synopsis

Other blogs taking part in the tour.  These are linked so why not give them all a visit too:

Adventures of a Book Junkie
Hammock of Books
The Novel Knight
24 Hour YA Book Blog
How Useful It Is
Fiction Fare
Awkwordly Emma
Devouring Books
Rants & Raves of a Bibliophile
Literary Dust
Lynn’s Book Blog
Let’s Get Galactic!
Frayed Books
Wonderfilled Reads



Can’t Wait Wednesday : Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell.

SongsfromthedeepA girl searches for a killer on an island where deadly sirens lurk just beneath the waves in this gripping, atmospheric debut novel.

The sea holds many secrets.

Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.

Due for publication :  November 2019