Set in a fast paced faux-Victorian era, Song of the Slums tells the story of Astor Vance, who is brought down to Earth with a bump when her privileged life is suddenly torn away from her. While trying to come to terms with her new status, with only the mysterious Verrol – who was previously her servant – to support her, Astor goes through a series of mishaps until finally the pair have to seek refuge in the slums of Brummingham.
This is where it feels like the story that the author wanted to tell actually starts, as the setting of the slums turns the plot from trite to exciting. The author’s understanding and love of music is apparent. He manages to weave the rhythms he is conveying into the writing, sweeping you away with the excitement and fast beats. Then with a subtle change, the love songs make you savour each word. This is the heart of the book, where all of the warmth is and where the world building feels the most developed. The grit and grime in the air is almost tangible and for the first time the cast surrounding the two protagonists become more than one dimensional. Even Astor, who starts out as a very spoilt, almost to the point of being unlikeable, character, goes through a real burst of credible character development.
The ending itself feels quite rushed. The tension that was being built – both romantically and on a larger scale – comes to a very abrupt resolution.