Love Across the Heavens
The Song that Moves the Sun is a fresh, and enjoyable installment to the realm of YA Fantasy, based loosely on the writings of Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy: Paradiso. Dante describes Heaven, or Paradise, as being nine concentric circles around the Earth, and it is widely seen as an allegory describing the ascent of the soul following death. Through his journey, Dante is guided by a woman named Beatrice, meant to symbolize theology, but also thought to be based on his real-life first love, Beatrice Portinari. Anna Bright takes Beatrice and Dante, adds in a friendship with famed explorer Marco Polo, and has the trio head up an expedition into space, helping to colonize other planets. Fast forward several centuries, and you meet the main protagonists, Beatrice’s descendant Claudia, and her best friend Rora, from Earth, and their new friends Major (from Venus) and Amir (from Mars). The four meet when the boys travel to Earth, in search of a song that will fix the disharmony in the music of the spheres. What they find instead, is Rora, an amplifier of music and emotion.
I really loved this book for many reasons, but for purposes of this review, I’ll just elaborate on the two most important reasons. First, I adored the extremely flawed characters because they were relatable and easy to root for. Rora suffers from PTSD but spends much of her time trying to pretend that she is fine, even though inside her mind and body are screaming at her that nothing is safe. This is something that I was able to personally identify with, making Rora’s bravery and will to protect those she loves even more inspiring. I also appreciated the realistic, and compassionate way that Rora’s symptoms were portrayed. Meanwhile, Claudia struggles with a lack of self-worth and personal identity, despite her wealth, intellect, and beauty, leading her to want to fix the struggles of everyone else, especially Rora. She also buries her struggles, presenting a brave face to the world, making her lovable and infuriating, at the same time. Because this is in part a love story, the girls find their natural matches in Amir and Major, who naturally come with their own sets of baggage. Amir feels inadequate to his ordained path in life, and Major worries that he will never truly belong where he is expected to find his future. The struggles the boys face, leads me to my second reason for loving this book. Each planet has a song that goes along with the characteristics of those born under the signs governed by that planet. In order to maintain order in the music, people must live on their assigned planet, and fall into the professions and rhythms expected of those born to those particular signs. However, Major and Amir both feel they don’t quite fit, and Rora experiences near catastrophe when a mistake is made about where she should fit. I thought this was a very clever way to illustrate the mistakes we make when we judge people based on surface characteristics, and when we try to surround ourselves only with people who are just like us. Afterall, it takes many different types of people to run a business, or a town, or a country…and differences are what adds spice to life, and should be celebrated and learned from.
My main criticism for this book, is that it felt a little too lengthy, with the beginning dragging on too long. I was definitely never thinking about DNFing the book, but I will say that it took me to about the 41% mark to feel invested and hooked. But from there, it was difficult to put down. Anna Bright has a wonderful way of describing things, painting vivid pictures for the mind, and frequently offering out thought-provoking questions under the guise of teenage observation. All in all, I would urge anyone who loves YA fantasy to give this work of art a read!
Trigger Warnings: Discussion of mental illnesses, brief mention of suicide
Meghan is a coffee connoisseur, devoted milspouse, and exhausted momma to a three year old daughter and three dogs. She enjoys hiking, glamping, and traveling. You are mostly likely to find her reading good books in a hammock with a view of the ocean or mountains.