Serenade, by Morgan Shamy
Hey guys, welcome back to Bookish Beyond.
How have you been?
Today, I’m excited to be reviewing Serenade, a spell-binding fantasy novel by Morgan Shamy.
So, if you’ve got your favourite drink to hand and are all settled in, let’s begin.
November Huntington is a renowned rock climber, who failed to make it into the Olympics. With her boyfriend recently having broken up with her, November feels rather deflated. Now, her uncle is sending her off to live with cousins she never knew she had, to attend a new, private arts school. However, not everyone welcomes November into their midst.
November gets off to a rough start at her new school and doesn’t appear to have a talent like the other kids. She just wants to leave, to return to her old life and her beloved rock-climbing. However, she eventually discovers her talent as a ballroom dancer.
It isn’t long before November learns about the tragic deaths which have occurred at her new school, where students hear unusual music, only to be found with their throats ripped out. This seemingly normal music school turns out to hide dark secrets, ones pertaining to the realm of the dead.
Given the long list of characters involved, I’ve chosen to focus on the following five for the purposes of this review – November, April, Margaret, Vincent, and Cam.
November Huntington is a seventeen-year-old rock-climber who failed to get into the Olympics. November is used to being alone and prefers things that way as she has a mood-related mental condition that has made her life difficult. Despite struggling with an ongoing mental-health battle, I found November to be a surprisingly strong and resilient young woman, who was perfectly capable of standing up for herself. Over the course of the story, we see her get tired of being a victim, becoming ready to choose her own life path. She deals well with different forms of conflict throughout the story, demonstrating a strong sense of willpower, despite her own personal weaknesses.
April Huntington (November’s cousin) provides a stark contrast to November’s more reserved nature. From first glance, April appeared affectionate and bubbly, always choosing to see the good in the world. She was delicate in a way, deeply hurt by others’ criticisms of her. She was also a kind and supportive friend to her cousin November and all those around her. I felt intense pride in April when she finally stood up for herself later in the book, rather than shying away from conflict like she used to.
Next, we come to Margaret, a self-important bully who teases April constantly and treats November with a growing sense of disdain. I found myself disliking Margaret from the beginning, however, over time she seemed to soften toward November and her cousin when she realized the reality of what was at stake for all of them. Learning the hidden reasons behind her cruel behaviour gradually had me empathising with her, something I had not thought possible when I was first introduced to her character.
Vincent was another character whose first impression didn’t do him justice. At first glance, Vincent appears cold and authoritative, with a touch of mystery surrounding him which immediately drew November in. At first, he appeared to be a bit of an ass, rarely getting along with anyone, least of all November. You really ‘get what you see’ with Vincent’s character. However, over time, he too surprised me, showing himself to be capable of acts of great kindness. As it turned out, he too had hidden motives that influenced his outward behaviour, painting him in a light that wasn’t entirely accurate.
Finally, we come to Cam, Vincent’s brother. At first meeting, he seemed suave, handsome, protective, honest, and, above all else, open. He quickly drew November in, giving her comfort in a strange new place she didn’t feel she could call home. However, Cam wasn’t all that he appeared either, which took me by surprise and quickly shifted my view of him. While learning about his tragic past did allow me to empathise with him more as time went on, I eventually came to dislike his character the more I got to know him.
The music school featured in this story might also be considered as a character in its own right. With its opulent rooms and somewhat imposing nature, it exists as a negative presence in November’s eyes until later on in the story, initially tearing her away from all she has ever loved. The ballroom in particular was breath-taking in its description and features some of the key scenes of the story.
There was much to like about Serenade, several points of which I have included below.
- I liked the author’s writing style as it focuses on important details to build a clear picture in your mind’s eye of the main events, characters, and locations.
- The different dynamics between the characters were interesting to observe, especially between November and characters like Vincent and his brother Cam. Seeing the contrast of initial tension and dislike between Vincent and November, with the honesty and warmth Cam originally emitted was interesting. All in all, I loved watching how these relationships developed over the course of the story.
- I loved the detailed world-building – of the school, how the music serves such specific functions, of the history behind November’s family and the role they played in things relating to the school.
- The characters were each memorable in their own ways and really came to life on the page.
- Finally, there were many unexpected twists, which had me itching to read on, especially toward the end of the story.
While reading Serenade, the following four quotes stood out to me, imparting important messages regarding life and how we connect with our own experience of it.
1) ‘He made her feel something other than normal human attraction. He made her feel like herself but exposed. He made her not afraid to be herself and not put up an act. He made her uncomfortable – uncomfortable enough to push herself, even when she didn’t want to be pushed.’
This quote regarding Vincent delves deep into November’s conflicting feelings toward him and how he encourages her to connect with her true self.
2) ‘Your self-worth shouldn’t be wrapped up in a hobby or your reputation.’
This quote felt especially important as I feel that a lot of us may fall into such a trap, attributing our self-worth to how productive we are or how much others like us. At the end of the day, it’s important for us to value ourselves for more than just what we can do or how others value us.
3) ‘This was why she didn’t allow herself to be connected with anyone. This was why she preferred being alone. Connecting meant hurting. Connecting meant opening yourself up to heartache.’
This felt like such a relatable quote. Sometimes it feels easier to put up our walls and lock that deeper part of ourselves away, to protect ourselves from such pain. However, this only serves to hurt us more in the long run.
4) ‘You shouldn’t give up what you love for a stupid assignment. Your mental health is more important than this world.’
This was another equally important quote, reminding us to nurture our mental health and to not abandon ourselves and what we are passionate about because we feel other things are more important.
Overall, I found Serenade to be a highly gripping fantasy novel, which explored the afterlife, elements of romance, and mental health. Other key themes included family, talents, life and death, friendship, and teamwork.
My Rating: 5 stars.
Recommended to: lovers of gripping young adult fantasy novels with unique characters and spell-binding world-building.
Would you like more information?
To learn more about Serenade, you can visit its Goodreads page, HERE.
Or, to find out more about Morgan Shamy, simply visit her website, HERE.
Alternatively, if you’re interested in this author’s other works, why not check out our review for The Redpoint Crux, HERE.
As always, thank you for joining me for today’s review.
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Have a wonderful week,