A Song for Quiet is the second novella in Cassandra Khaw’s series Persona Non Grata, the first being Hammers on Bone about a private detective/eldritch entity. This time we’re following Deacon James, a jazz musician who’s returning from his father’s funeral. As if that isn’t enough for our protagonist he’s got a song stuck in his head, and it’s one that will end the world.
As with Khaw’s previous book in the series the prose in A Song for Quiet is sickly thick, like honey, and it’s so moreish. There were many occasions where I had to re-read a passage and savour it.
I know that thick prose like that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and maybe that will put you off (I really, really hope it doesn’t) but with that in mind let me remind everyone that this is a novella. If you’re not sure about whether or not Cassandra Khaw’s prose are for you then give it go! I can only recommend Hammers on Bone at the moment but rest assured I will be working my way through her writings so I expect I’ll be pushing the rest on you at some point.
Whether the prose is your thing or not the fact that it’s a novella is another great reason to give it a go. I read a lot of fantasy and the genre (epic fantasy in particular) can explode outwards as subplots and side-character grow in significance and before you know it you’re reading a ten book series. As this is a novella (and a standalone one at that) you know that you can (if you want to) read it in one sitting. There’s no huge time investment as you might find with a 1,000 page book and as it’s standalone you might not feel the need to get the next bajillion books. (I hope you would though, they’re great)
As music plays a large part in the story and the characters it can sometimes be hard to grasp the physicality within a scene but then again because of the nature of the eldritch, mind-breaking horror the novella deals with I think it also adds an extra dimension to that part of the story.
After I read it I also stumbled on this article from Tor.com about the legacy of H P Lovecraft by Leah Schnelbach that deals with Cassandra Khaw (and Victor LaValle) specifically. It brought up a lot of elements that I hadn’t considered on my initial read through but it made the story all the more powerful for it. So if you have read either of those authors’ works and haven’t read that article, I also suggest you do so.
Cassandra Khaw is now one of my favourites and I will be slowly working my way through her work. Her writing has teeth that sink deep into you and will leave you bleeding. Honestly, I just bloody loved this story
Either pick this up or pick up Hammers on Bone if you’ve not already read it.
You will not be disappointed.