Indie books are in a select niche of stories that hark back to an era when writing was an expression of the artist’s soul, rather than a mass-market commercial product; and in fact, despite the heavy criticism laid on the self-published scene, the reality is that many self-pub’d books can provide a just as memorable – or greater – narrative as any traditionally published novel.

Dissonance is one such indie book. Young author, Mariella Hunt, has crafted a clever and subtle world of magic that derives from musical notes. These ‘Muses’ are capable of using songs for both good and evil purposes, and I have to admit that, despite reading a fair amount of fantasy, I’d never seen music used in this manner before. It’s clever, and works well in the narrative, even if the magic is a little too subtle to fully realize its own potential.

At the heart of it, Dissonance is a story about characters. The plot follows Allie, a young Muse sick with ‘Dissonance’: a rare medical condition that afflicts Muses and threatens to kill her. Haunted by an evil spirit called Song, mistreated by her parents, and almost sold in an auction to people hell-bent on destroying the fragile Veil between the mundane world and the magical world, Allie discovers the true meaning of family and love, in the form of her supposed uncle and savior, Julian.

Hunt has a curious style of prose that is immediately reminiscent of classical literature. But fear not, if you couldn’t stand Dickens or Austen; Hunt has taken the flowery prose of the late Victorian era and brought it racing into the modern generation with a punchy, emotionally-powerful story, and a few quirky characters along the way.

Dissonance does stray from some expected norms, however. The world-building itself is sadly lacking, and at times, the magical powers of its varied characters – including a mysterious ‘changeling’ thrown in with little apparent reason – feel tacked-on, without a way to ground themselves in the story. Despite being told Allie was mistreated and imprisoned by her mother, the reader isn’t shown that, so I personally found it difficult to believe as well.

But Dissonance easily makes up for these misgivings – simply put, it’s a joy to read. It stands out from the crowd of self-published fantasy novels because it isn’t trying to be a Mortal Instruments, Game of Thrones or even Twilight clone – Dissonance is prepared to stand on its own, delivering a character-driven plot with a novel magical system, and an overriding theme of finding a loving family.

The Good

A gorgeous style of prose, with a punchy emotional kick, a clever magical system, and a heart-warming narrative about love and redemption.

The Bad

At times lacking in world-building, and a few questionable choices with the ‘other’ magical creatures and characters.

The Verdict

A unique debut novel that pushes its way through the ranks of indie urban fantasy, delivering a novel magical concept, and an emotionally gripping narrative of family and love.


4/5 Stars

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Rae Oestreich says:

    You and I are basically the same person when it comes to books, brett. This is a great review, and I found myself agreeing on practically every single point: great prose, a promising world and series of characters. I’m so excited to read the next one!

    Great review!


    1. Brett Michael Orr says:

      Hehe we kinda are, aren’t we? Thanks so much for reading my review! 😀


    2. Love you, Rae!! ❤


  2. Sunny Smith says:

    I’ve been meaning to get into some indie published books, but never quite knew where to start. I guess I do now!

    Also, is this available in paper book format? Sometimes the rough thing about self-published books is that they’re exclusively e-book format:(


    1. Brett Michael Orr says:

      Hey Sunny! Dissonance is a great place to start for indie books! If you desire, you can purchase a physical edition of DISSONANCE from CreateSpace for just US$9.99!


    2. Hi Sunny! If you read Dissonance, I hope you enjoy it! I agree about the e-book thing. I decided I wanted to do this all the way, and even though making it into a paperback was a bit more work, it was worth it in the end!

      Thanks for commenting!


  3. Heather says:

    I can’t help but agree with you. As a beta-reader, I found myself clinging onto the characterization a ton (and I will say, there is indeed a point to Tyson: TO HAVE A CRUSH ON HIM lolololol) and that character-driven story really did it for me. I’d also like to know more about the world she lives in, but I still look forward to the next one!


    1. Brett Michael Orr says:

      Hi Heather! It’s great to hear from one of the original beta readers! I must have missed the whole crushing on Tyson thing, I’m shipping Brandon! And yes I can’t wait for the sequel!

      Thanks for stopping by!


    2. Heather I love you for sticking up for Tyson like that. hehehehe. The point to Tyson, for readers, definitely seems to be the fan club 😀 and there’s more of him in book 2! thanks for reading!


      1. Brett Michael Orr says:

        Darn! I’m usually great with shipping characters as good as any girl, but I think I missed it with Tyson! XD


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