“By the time he was fifteen we had exhausted our knowledge, but he was still hungry, and that’s when he found a new teacher, one over whom we had no control. There are books in the library which detail powers that gaeden [Guardians of the Veil] long ago had, but which we have not seen here ourselves. Savin devoured these books, and he sought to unearth those lost talents for himself.” (pg. 392)
Yet fantasy and science fiction have some of the best ambiguous characters ever – rascals with a heart of gold, thieves with honor, traitors turned good such as Han Solo, Mal Reynolds, Severus Snape, Locke Lamora, even Darth Vader himself – characters who have choice, and the beauty of whose stories relies precisely on the ambiguity of the question of good and evil.
It doesn’t help, either, that Cooper provides a sort of Philosophy 101 in her dialogue, rehashing the arguments one might hear in a high school European history class. The Church is a hypocritical institution, the acts that the Church defines as sin are not necessarily sin, and there is no straightforward answer to the question of good and evil are all ideas that anyone who’s been paying attention has probably heard at least once in their life.
One might hope that for the next novel (coming in the next year or so, if news on the matter are to be believed) Gair develops some flaws or at least a darker side to his character, for Songs of the Earth is an inextricable part of a trilogy, a story that’s just starting. A story that would be easier and much more engaging to read if the moralizing hid itself below the surface