By Cynthia Bujnicki
Lainie was always destined for more than her ranch. Unfortunately, she thought college in a city was her destiny, not being locked into her sheep farm to guard the gate to Eden. Tasked with trying to save her ranch and the land she knows nothing about from corporate miners, Lainie must embark on a journey of self-discovery to save a friend gone missing and a land she knows nothing about.
This novel has a promising premise as it follows Lainie, a young girl who wants nothing more than to escape the backwoods of Australia and go live in the city and attend university. It is a typical coming-of-age premise of a young individual seeking out a chance to spread their wings and escape their repetitive simple lives. However, the twist here is that Lainie is not an ordinary human; she is a Cherub, a creature meant to protect the gate from humans. It is an interesting enough premise, and the book cover is beautiful enough to draw in any reader.
However, the novel itself pales in comparison.
Songlines is one of those novels that was difficult to hold my attention. The detail that went into the description of the setting and backdrop was terrific. It is beautiful how Denman can create that backdrop in such magical way without losing realism. Then there was the approach to Judeo-Christian religion. It was respectful in the way it captured religion and took the ideals of Eden and transformed them into mythology. The novel is incredibly respectful, so for that; the novel holds merit. What is hard to get a handle on is the characters and the dynamics.
Lainie’s relationship with Bane is one that is not only predictable but cliché. These are two characters who hate each other that are destined to be with one another. As a cliché trope, it is one that is fine to work with, especially when the reader can connect to the characters. However, Lainie and Bane are challenging to connect to, and their guardian-sentinel forced relationship takes away half of the magic that could have been used to build up their dynamics. As a couple, the fact that they are forced together, it does not come off well to the reader, and both characters do not jump off the pages. They are lackluster, and the reader is not given much depth to their relationship, at least not enough to make the reader care about them. Their voices are stagnant.
Now, while the detail may be incredible, the pace of the story is incredibly slow. It is hard to get a firm grip on the direction of the novel because it is almost as if two stories are going on here, but neither is built up well enough. It is as if the reader is driving between the fork on the road, looking at both roads for direction. It just takes too long to capture the reader’s interest, following the slow pace and adding in scenes that do not add anything to the plot or the character development. They are, quite simply, nothing but filler, lacking any substance.
Once again, as compelling as the novel could have been, it ultimately just fell flat. (★★☆☆☆)