“The Death of a Songbird” by M.R. McCoy

“The Death of a Songbird” by M.R. McCoy 663 1024 Reader Views Kids

The Death of a Songbird

M.R. McCoy
Inner Muse Press (2023)
ISBN:  979-8987964118
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (09/2023)

“The Death of a Songbird” by M.R. McCoy is a dystopian YA fantasy where women are subservient to men in all things, and the League of Fellows rules the land.  Those who conform can live peaceful, content lives, while those who rebel must face not only the wrath of the League but also brave the dangers outside the walls of New Geneva.  Wren Crivelli used to have a simple, ordinary life.  She lived in a little house by a small lake with her parents, Harmony and Gerolt, and her older brother, Elias.  After an attack on their farm leaves her family shattered, Wren is thrust into captivity in the Crystal Pedestal as a Purity Maiden.  As tensions rise between the League of Fellows and a growing rebel faction, Wren must think about whether keeping her family together is worth compromising her beliefs, her future, and even her own survival.

The themes of “The Death of a Songbird” are reminiscent of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” although the world the story takes place in reminds me of the “Divergent” series.  We have a population that is strictly divided into specific categories.  First, there are the general categories of men versus women.  Men have the freedom to make their own decisions, choose their own professions, and forge their own futures.  Women, on the other hand, must submit to their husbands or fathers, are forbidden to learn most subjects outside related to fashion, food, or the home, and are envisioned as being precious, but treated as birds in cages. 

Inside the walls of New Geneva, life unfolds based on your gender, your family’s status within the league, and the industry the men of that family work in.  Crossing the lines into another circle, or defecting outside the walls, is seen as a social transgression and could even be subject to punishment.  The land inside the city limits is seen as a safe zone, whereas the world beyond the walls is seen as dangerous, filled with barbarians, and a sure death sentence for anyone who tries to live outside the city.

“The Death of a Songbird” echoes the growing themes in YA-dystopian literature which warn against dividing different genders, professions, or locations within a community as falling into strict categories or stereotypes.  When these categories get too binding, the entire community suffers.  When the community suffers, tensions rise, and rebellious, even violent actions can unfold.  Rather, it is important to remember that we all retain our individual worth, and we all deserve to be treated with, if not instinctual respect, common human courtesy. 

It did take me a while to get into “The Death of the Songbird.” I got a little thrown off in the beginning with how time was passing.  In the earliest chapters, the timeline seems to be going pretty much day-to-day, and then suddenly years pass by, and it feels a little disorienting to be suddenly thrown into the Crystal Pedestal and see Wren as a young woman.  To me, that is where it felt like the real bulk of the story began. 

The stark change in Gerolt’s personality and behaviors towards his wife and daughter also felt a little off-kilter to me.  It felt a little forced to me, especially considering how his beliefs and actions came off in the beginning of the book when he was so keen on saving Harmony from having to become a victim of the Crystal Pedestal, even if it meant enduring hardship in dangerous lands. 

Overall, though, I did really enjoy “The Death of a Songbird,” by M.R. McCoy and would recommend it to fans of Dystopian fantasy.  There are some graphic scenes, however, and disturbing themes, so I would advise discretion to younger audiences or those who might be triggered by scenes of abuse or sexual assault. 

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