Sofi and the Bone Song by Adrienne Tooley
Music runs in Sofi’s blood.
Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.
Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.
Almost like magic.
The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.
As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Sofi has spent her entire life preparing to become a Musik.
In Aell, only the five Musiks are allowed to publicly perform original compositions, and they must do so without the aid of magic. Sofi’s father is one of the Musiks, and all her life, she has studied the lute until his unwavering watch. Where other students have come and gone, Sofi has surpassed them all, and now, when her father is to name an Apprentice, it is time to assume what she has come to think of as her birthright.
But when another girl outperforms her at Apprentice auditions, stealing away everything Sofi has poured into the sixteen years of her life, it all changes. Desperate to prove her rival has used forbidden magic to steal the title of Apprentice, and grieving the death of her father so soon after the failed audition, she agrees to accompany the new Musik on her introductory tour through the nation. Maybe this way, she can expose the truth and reclaim her title. To do so, though, she’ll have to resist the temptation to stray from her training, and she’ll have to decide how much of her past she’s willing to reckon with.
But maybe there is more to the music than Sofi knows, and maybe it is time for her to learn other truths instead.
“The things you love shouldn’t hurt you.”
Sofi and the Bone Song is fundamentally a story about the things we do for art, and the ways we hurt for love. When Sofi’s father chooses Lara to be his apprentice rather than Sofi, he upends everything Sofi has ever worked for. She’s spent the last ten years adhering to an ever more strict routine of practice and prayer, silence and supplication, trying to prove herself worthy of the title of Musik. Yet here comes a girl who has never held a lute in her life, and she becomes the next Musik instead.
It all makes Sofi start out as a cold, even bitter, character. She’s rather stiff, entirely driven, and has little patience for anything or anyone that doesn’t aid her quest to become her father’s Apprentice. And naturally, that’s what makes the journey so worth it.
Not only is her relationship with Lara brilliantly written (more on that soon), but it opens up so many doors previously closed to Sofi. On Lara’s introductory tour through Aell, Sofi begins to actually examine her feelings instead of stuffing them down deep. She wallows in the jealously that Lara is Musik, that she writes the songs that win Lara acclaim, that Lara can captivate a crowd, even without an instrument in hand. But in equal measure, her curiosity blooms. What might it be like to pursue new directions in songwriting? And what about all the questions about her past, the ones everyone refused to answer for her?
The literal journey is excellent, but the metaphorical journey is even better. It’s an emotional one, and it forces Sofi to reckon with her reasons for creating music. For so long, she has suffered in the name of her art and in the name of the Muse. What would it be like to create from some other emotion instead?
Stir in a mix of grumpy grouch meets super sunshine, and it gets even better.
Lara Hollis, the love interest, proves to be Sofi’s perfect foil. Cheery and earnest, she stands out brightly against Sofi’s focused gloom, and I love the contrast with all my heart. I mean, who doesn’t love a little bit of sunshine meets grump?
But the reason it’s so good isn’t just that Sofi and the Bone Song uses a classic trope. It’s because Lara and Sofi exist in this amazing state of balance. They’re constantly learning from one another over the course of the journey. Sometimes, this means learning about each other as people. Sofi gradually lets pieces of Lara in, comes to understand why she took a chance on auditions, learns how few outdoors skills Lara has. And in turn, Lara welcomes every part of Sofi, even the rough edges and the mysterious, even dangerous heritage.
But I especially love when they create together. At first, Sofi does more teaching than anything, since Lara has no formal musical training. But as they grow and come into their own, there’s a joy in the way they find music together. Whether they see it or not, whether they can admit it or not, they are partners in creation. What’s more special than that?
Sofi and the Bone Song is a beautiful standalone that will resonate with any creator, not just musicians.
Lara’s insistence that art comes from love has stuck with me since I reached the last page. I think anyone with a creative bone in their body, even if they’re more of a Sofi who thinks art comes from suffering, could stand to listen to Lara for a moment or two. It’s amazing what comes out of joy and passion rather than just applying skill with a cool, clinical touch.
And yes, maybe it still hurts sometimes, maybe there’s some suffering, but what a world of difference it makes to reexamine what drives you to create! I loved following Sofi on that particular journey, and it’s prompted me to take a closer look at my own work. I may not be a musician, but my other creative endeavors could stand a little bit of loving scrutiny.
Anyhow, if you think this wintery, wonderful tale is the right book for you, never fear! Sofi and the Bone Song is officially on shelves, just waiting for you to read it. It released on April 19th as Adrienne Tooley’s sophomore novel, and I can confidently say I liked it even more than her debut.
CW: loss of a loved one, child neglect, suicide