Orphan’s Song begins with a familiar tune: an encroaching dark lord, an old peddler with a mysterious past, a ragtag band of urchin-rebels, and a Cinderella figure imbued with a power she doesn’t comprehend. But Gillian Bronte Adams’s arrangement rings with sincerity, drawing us into a classic medieval fantasy setting populated with archetypes that somehow feel fresh and vigorous. Birdie, the titular orphan who alone can hear and channel the deistic soundtrack of the universe, is beset by doubts (but not by irritating angst). Her friends and allies likewise inhabit the third dimension. Relentless foes keep our heroes on their toes. Sudden violence and forceful diction drive the action forward, relieved by descriptive flourishes that accent secondary-world beauty for its own sake.
Best for: Young adults seeking the trailhead of a well-styled fantasy series that doesn’t ask much of them.
Discern: Low scruples, moderate bloodshed, and high dudgeon.