The Descent Of The Lyre – Will Buckingham

“And she thought to herself: one day this child will take to the hillsides with the haiduti. It was a thought in which terror and pride were equally weighed.”

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Blurb: “It is the early nineteenth century, and the Bulgarian village of Gela, the legendary home of Orpheus is suffering under the heavy taxation and arbitrary justice of Ottoman rule. When his bride-to-be is abducted the night before his wedding, Ivan Gelski takes to the hills and turns to banditry to seek revenge. But a chance encounter with a travelling guitarist, and the bloodshed that follows, set him on a musical journey through fame, martyrdom and legend.”

Books are discovered for a great many reasons: recommendations from family or friends, reviews on Goodreads or blogs, positioned perfectly on a shelf in a bookstore or, in my case, they’re your university teacher. I had the privilege of being taught Creative Writing by Will Buckingham for three years and in that time I learnt a great many things from him. He talked passionately about this book and I was able to hear him read from the story a few times.

The story follows a man called Ivan who meets a girl called Stoyanka when he is of “marrying age.” However, the day before the ceremony she is taken by a pasha (an Ottoman official) to marry his son. In a fit of rage, Ivan seeks the help of Bogdan Voyvoda and his group of bandits for help. In addition to this, a man named Solomon gets summoned by the sultan for his musical talent but along the way gets taken hostage by Ivan and his new group of friends.

I expected this to be a simple “revenge story” in which I would follow Ivan on the quest to take back his lover. It is about so much more than that. Through each part of the story (of which there are four) Will introduces different characters and their lives, offering up their perspectives to give new and exciting tastes of the world. Each character holds their own so well and all of them read at the same wonderful level; I had none that I liked the least. They were all just so interesting and the book was a thrill to read based on this alone.

While turning the pages of this book, it brought to the forefront why I love reading so much. I read for a variety reasons (as I am sure you do the same) and while experiencing this book, I was struck by how books have the ability to make readers experience places they have never been to, or long to go to by placing them in those locations through a combination of letters and words. I have never been to Bulgaria and yet, after reading this book I feel like I have.

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