The Dyesi are a pacifistic race delighting in collecting, cultivating, and sharing Cantor (akin to music), Grace (akin to dance), and skinshift that is combined together into Godsong. The Godsong is mesmerizing, addictive, and pernicious, sinking into the minds of other sapien species. The Dyesi continue to create pantheons, bringing together Cantors, Graces, and those capable of skinshift into groups capable of being Gods, sending them out across the universe, from planet to planet, station to station.
Phex is a refugee from the Wheel, a xenophobic society that crafted him with beauty, physical prowess, and a perfect voice … and then dropped him into the sewers of the system as a crudrat because he wasn’t perfect enough. He escaped, and now lives on Attacon 7, a small space station, going to school and working in a cafe. It’s tedious, but it’s safe, until a Dyesi hears him singing along to Godsong broadcast into the cafe. Suddenly, Phex is summoned to Audition, given no choice to refuse, and less choice to refuse when he passes the Audition.
The Dyesi think Phex has the talent to be a God.
What I really want to say is .. don’t read any reviews. Don’t listen to anyone trying to tell you the plot of this book. Go into it open eyed, with neither expectations nor biases. Don’t try to peek behind the curtain, guess who’s going to end up with who, or how the story’s going to end. This isn’t that sort of book. In a sense, it’s a slice-of-life story about a young man given a chance to prove himself — to prove that, while he was given a body by the people who crafted him, his soul and his ability to create art are his own.
This is a slow book, lingering on with character moments, bonding moments, banter, and world building seen through the eyes of someone who has been so beaten down, he’s never before looked up from the ground. And now, he is able to see every color spread across the sky.
The character work is amazing. Not only Phex, but every side character has a clear, distinctive voice. While none of them come from the same planet, there’s no lengthy exposition about this planet and that one; instead, it’s about the people around Phex, the good and the bad. Nothing is forced; every bit of world building is organic and natural, shared through real conversations or realizations. That’s not to say Phex is just a reader insert; he’s a stubborn, wounded, shy, and uncertain young man who spends much of the book afraid everything will be taken from him, afraid to hold on too tightly lest he break something — or someone — and afraid to ask for something he wants, because even here, even with Acolytes to see to his every need, what if they say no? What if they see that the vision of him they want isn’t the person he is?
The writing is beautiful. The pace is perfect. Never once did I feel like I was trying to catch up to the story or that something ended too fast, or dragged on too long. The world building is perfection. The Dyesi culture, the Gods, the various races brought together and their biases and prejudices … not everyone is good or kind, but that doesn’t make them wrong or bad. There are moments — such as when Phex begged Tyve “How come you never came for me?” — that stand out for the right reasons. Phex has never before asked for something for himself; if one of his pantheon, one of his friends needs something, he’d do anything to have it done. But for himself? That was the only time in the whole book Phex wanted something for himself.
If you have ever agreed with any of my reviews, even a little, then trust me when I say this is probably the best book I will read this year. This will be the crown jewel in my Annual Favorites list. It’s a perfect 5 stars for me in every aspect. Three chapters into this book I went to Amazon to see if there was going to be a sequel, and I’m delighted to say there is. This is the first book in the Tinkered Starsong series and I don’t know how I’m going to endure the wait until August for book two. I really don’t.