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The Masked Songbird

(Shrike #1)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonising her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. Al
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Anam-Charaid (first published 2014)
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4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  160 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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This is a pretty grisly super hero origins story that takes place in Scotland. And, note, I usually read lesfic or books with f/f relationships and this book is not that. I did totally dig the lead's ultimate love interest, though.

Gwen is an accountant by profession and passive by nature, letting people walk all over her in work and in life. Both her boss and her boyfriend are awful yet she continually tolerates and fears their reproach and abandonment. She's an odd one to be a real life super h
Martin Reaves
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man, what a ride. The Masked Songbird is the most fun I’ve had between the covers (book covers that is) in a good long time.

Emmie Mears’s heroine, Gwen Maule, is a fantastic character, and resonated with me as truly authentic from page one.

There’s a good deal of whimsy between these pages, but also a surprising amount of heart.

Mears is a wonderful writer. We can only wonder what she’ll do next.
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really excellent first novel. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but then it really hit its stride and I was gripped. I love Gwen as a heroine - she's so relatable it almost feels wrong to call her a "superhero", but she is, and she's a great one. I also love that the explanation for her superpowers wasn't just dismissed with a wave of a wand, but had a realistic explanation - with associated side effects, like constantly needing to eat.

I felt like this book could have been a bi
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great read for anyone who enjoys a solid, action-packed thriller with compelling characters. The Scottish setting adds depth and credibility to this urban fantasy.

A strong effort by author Emmie Mears, the book is just the first of a hopefully long and profitable series. Readers will probably be casting the film version in their minds as they read.

I'm looking forward to Shrike #2.
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, 2015
I loved this book quite a bit. The debut from Emmie Mears was everything I could have hoped for. Without being spoilery, this was a fantastic trip through the origin of a woman superhero. The main character is flawed in a way that feels true, and by the end you are rooting for her to find her path and win the day. There is a romance element to the story, but it definitely plays second fiddle to the greater love story of a woman discovering herself, which is really my favorite kind of love story ...more
Daniel Swensen
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: urban-fantasy
A modern superhero epic that hits the spot. Gwen Maule is a fantastic protagonist, and Mears does a great job of creating a realistic plight and a vivid sense of time and place. Brisk pacing and unexpected twists. Overall, a very rewarding read and I'm looking forward to seeing what's next from Gwen Maule.
Jessica Collins
I loved this book. If you like origin stories you'll love this. If you like political intrigue you'll love this. If you love birds you'll probably cry, but it's okay because vengeance will be yours in the end. Seriously. Go out and grab this one.
Sam (EvaNadine)
Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emmie Mears has a very gentle hand with language, and her first novel, the Masked Songbird, displays her writing skills brilliantly. Timely, with its references to Scotland's referendum debate, the Masked Songbird is peppered with history, politics, and socioeconomic guideposts, yet one needn't be fluent in the topic, as Emmie walks the reader through the fine points. Meanwhile, the story is painted with the brushstrokes of a comic book master, keeping the action moving and the humor and wit off ...more
Jim Sanders
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. An interesting urban fantasy with elements of a political thriller and a romance. The characters are sharply written and the details of the Scottish setting are vivid. Having the backdrop of the Scottish Independence referendum was very intriguing and informative. The author Emmie Mears writes with a strong voice and a lot of heart. The superhero origians story is well done, not overdone, with realistic effects for a relatable woman. I am looking forward to more in th ...more
Sep 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love good urban fantasy. If it tosses current political events into the mix, that's even better. The Masked Songbird tells the story of how one ordinary accountant becomes extraordinary and helps shape the future of not only her life, but her country. It certainly hits the mark for both urban fantasy and political thriller. I look forward to the next one in the series to follow the continuing adventures of the Shrike.
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a lot of fun. It's really nice to see a lady hero, and even nicer to see one who's more concerned about kicking ass than she is about getting a boyfriend (for a change). I thought it was gonna be all fun and games but there was actually some pretty heavy stuff in here. I shed a few tears. Marvel should probably get on this...
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
THE MASKED SONGBIRD by Emmie Mears is a fantastic read that sweeps you into Gwen Maule's world from the very first page and keeps you invested through the very last page. Strong writing, diverse and beautifully voiced cast, and a blast to read.
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I truly enjoyed this story! Watching Gwen learn to use her powers was great fun. There was one part of the ending that I was a little disappointed in but as a writer myself I think the author ended it how she should have, even though it wasn't necessarily what I wanted as the reader.
Cassandra Page
Emmie Mears is my favourite new urban fantasy discovery for 2016. I devoured her Ayala Storme series and then went looking for more. The Masked Songbird was her debut, but didn’t suffer for it — it has all the hallmarks of her writing, in that it’s action-packed and full of heart.

Despite the blurb, Gwen starts off in a pretty dark place. Yes, she has a boyfriend — but Angus is a manipulative prick one step away from being abusive. Yes, she has a job — but her terrifying boss is clearly a corpora
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trad-pub, kindle, pwm, 5-stars, 2018
Devoured this in one night, when I'd meant to go to bed early. This captured me from the start, between the brilliant voice and the humor shining through all the tense moments. I'll admit, I save this author for when I'm in a book rut or when I keep bouncing off books because I'm not getting into them, because I know they'll always pull me in.
Tim Childree
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant superhero story, even better personal story

One of the best superhero(ine) novels I've ever read, and it comes down to the author's absolutely brilliant method of capturing personal moments and crafting believable and wonderful characters.
Molli B.
Very enjoyable!! Strong writing, good story, interesting characters, compelling political backdrop.

Now I just have to figure out how to get books 2 and 3...
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book came on my radar after it was mentioned by a couple of high-profile book blogs. Set in Edinburgh in the run-up to the Independence Referendum, we follow the adventures of accountant Gwen and her transformation into something of a Superwoman. As a Scot who enjoys fantasy/UF, it sounded worth a look.

Overall, I enjoyed the book but with a few minor niggles. The author has a very engaging style of writing and the plot moves along at a rapid pace. I liked Gwen's character and found myself s
Kate Swed
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, fantasy-sf
I adored this book.

The voice. This voice is everything I want from first person. Gwen is fun to hang around with, and you never quite know what she’ll do next–which is why it’s totally believable that she’d suck down an open beverage when she finds herself in desperate need of one (no spoilers here!).

The story is rigorously true to its own internal logic, and to Gwen’s character. I know her well, so I believe in her choices. She may be hapless from the beginning, as the blurb tells us, but it’s
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good book. It wasn't just about a girl becoming a superhero accidentally. It also involved friendship, romance, and self-discovery. There was action, suspense, and drama. I never got bored while reading, and in the end, I found it quite unputdownable.

Gwen was an interesting main character. She wasn't immediately likable, since she started out the story with no backbone. She let both her boss and boyfriend walk all over her. However, that all began to change. Over the course of
Kevin Hammond
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know for someone who is from Scotland you can't help but get a bit nervy when you see a book set in Scotland. Sometimes it's mangled dialect. Sometimes it's odd descriptions that just don't work. Sometimes you read a book thinking ye must be huvin me oan here? But then I'm giving this five stars because there was none of that. In fact it was brilliant and I would recommend it to anyone I know

There are some nice touches that give this story a good bit of credibility. For example, arse. Can I
Martin Berman-Gorvine
I greatly enjoyed the first adventures of Gwen Maule, aka The Shrike, in Emmie Mears's The Masked Songbird. I like my heroines strong yet believably human, and that is what Gwen is, with her lousy accounting job she can't afford to quit, her scummy boyfriend she can't quite bring herself to dump, and the parents she hasn't visited in two years because she can't face watching her mother waste away with dementia. I liked the fact that even when she gets superpowers, she still needs other people, l ...more
Nov 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this in a couple of hours. I have mixed feelings about it. So I'll just type up my impressions.

1) This is a really unusual HQ, I've never read one like it. It's more SF with a hint of romance, but there's no central romance. This is neither positive or negative to me.

2) The negatives heaped on the heroine to (IMO) stress the changes in her later were to my mind unrealistic and overblown. And I saw some but not much reaction from her. She seemed rather removed from all of it, including t
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own, favorites
This book has everything you can dream up for the genre: super heroes (or heroines, as the case may be), mysteries, science experiments gone awry, Scottish accents, silly banter, costumes, fight scenes, political intrigue, love, loss and plenty more.

I was caught up in the fast pace of the book; feeling with the characters and trying desperately to solve the mysteries. Many of the issues are very serious, but they are often approached in a lighthearted way. This does not diminish the issues, onl
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this! I'm not normally into superheroes, in part because, for all that they're often *meant* to be relatable as their normal selves, they almost never are. Even if they're not super-rich, they're super-hot, or male, or super-hot and male, and usually suave.

Gwen is none of these things. She's realistic and well fleshed out. She makes mistakes. She doesn't have a great relationship with her parents. She's dating a jerk, her job (read: boss) is awful, and she's often broke.

And then. AND THEN.
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was 100% fun. I'm a sucker for superhero fiction. Slap some masks and some superpowers onto a book and I will read it, no questions asked. So when a friend recommended this to me, I knew I had to pick it up.

Was this the best superhero book ever? Nope. Did I love every second of it? YOU BET.

This was so much fun. The characters were likeable, the plot moved along at a fast clip, and it was at the perfect level of cheesiness. The ending was a good and satisfying, though not perfectly happy.

James Callaghan
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a fun story and a great addition to the swelling ranks of unique and somewhat unconventional superheroes. But what really stood out for me as an American reader was the refreshing voice of a Scottish writer, her characters and the location. It makes a wonderful change of pace to read something that doesn't happen to New Yorkers, Angelenos or Londoners.
Jun 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
the answer is Yes. Read this book.

Well written, thought provoking. Uncomfortable at times and then triumphant. Fantastical as well. I found myself reading until the wee hours without noticing, it's been a long time since that happened. I will definitely be reading the next installment. Thanks for writing, Emmie Mears. Please continue.
Eric Weaver
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's obvious that Emmie has spent some time in Scotland. The world felt vivid and the characters' voices brought it to life.

A lot more blood than I was expecting. But Gwennie kicks some serious arse, and it is awesome!

Great debut, Emmie!
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Emmie Mears writes the books they always needed to read about characters they wish they could be. Emmie is multilingual, autistic, agender, and a bad pescetarian.

Emmie makes their home with two cats in Glasgow, Scotland and hopes to keep it that way.

Emmie is represented by Sara Megibow of kt literary.

Other books in the series

Shrike (2 books)
  • Rampant (Shrike, #2)