Review | The Song of the Marked by S.M. Gaither

Review of The Song of the Marked (Shadows and Crowns #1) by S.M. Gaither.

“You’re much nicer after you’ve had a near-death experience. You should almost die more often, maybe.”

– The Song of the Marked
S.M. Gaither

“The Song of the Marked” delivers a surprising magic system, fun characters and grounds for an interesting plot.


An ancient evil is stirring. The old gods are growing restless. Can she stop the coming storm?

A Devastating Sickness

For decades, the Kethran Empire has been plagued by a strange illness that leaches the very life and soul from its victims.

The Girl Who Survived

Casia is one of the Fade-Marked—one of the few people who caught this sickness and lived. Why she lived is a mystery even to her and the outcast crew of mercenaries she calls her family. It also makes her an intriguing target for the young, enigmatic king-emperor, who claims he wants to work alongside her to find a cure.

Unfortunately, working alongside him also means working with the handsome but infuriating captain of one of the most prestigious branches of the Kethran Army.

A Soldier With No Past

This infuriating Captain Elander also has secrets: A past that Cas can’t seem to uncover, a powerful but strange brand of magic, and a deep distrust of the very monarch that he’s sworn to serve. She feels oddly drawn to him in spite of these things…

But can she really trust him?

The Fate of an Empire

As the bodies pile up and strange monsters begin to wreak havoc throughout the realms, Cas and Elander will have to work together to protect their world whether they trust one another or not. Because one thing is clear: Something ancient and evil is stirring in the shadows of Kethra.

And the empire will not survive its full unleashing.

But how can they save a world where nothing and no one is what they seem to be— including Cas herself?


My new year’s resolution is to read more books published independently, and I’m starting this resolution off by reviewing The Song of the Marked by S.M. Gaither.

I actually really enjoyed this book. Just like every other (high) fantasy book, I was a bit confused in the beginning. I didn’t really understand what was happening. But that feeling quickly faded, and I was thrown into this magical and action packed world. I loved the element of the Gods in The Song of the Marked, but wasn’t familiar with any of them. I listened to the audiobook but saw someone saying there’s a glossary in the book. I’d definitely suggest reading it to understand the story a bit better. Since I didn’t have the glossary and hadn’t read the prequels, I had no idea who the Gods were and what powers they had.

I do feel like this book is really an introduction to this series. It wasn’t that plot-heavy. We got little pieces of the plot but it wasn’t all that clear why the characters did what they did.

The found family trope in The Song of the Marked suits the story perfectly and was well-executed. I wanted even more of Casia’s friends, and I hope we’ll get that in the next book. I also quite liked Elander’s character and liked his and Casia’s chemistry. I’m curious, to see what his motives are and who he really is.

The magic system is interesting and in The Song of the Marked, we got glimpses of how powerful the magic can be. I am really looking forward to seeing these powers displayed fully.

What impressed me most is the representation of anxiety and panic attacks. As someone who suffers from them, I really appreciated a strong female heroine also having anxiety. The way Casia handled her panic attacks felt so familiar, and I honestly felt seen. There are a couple of instances in The Song of the Marked where Casia is struggling and having an attack and trying to cope with it by ticking with her fingers. And it was so cool to see how the character copes with her fears.

Another thing to note is the great work of the narrator Jesse Vilinsky. I absolutely loved the way she narrated Elander’s voice.

The ending was quite predictable, but still really makes me want to continue this series.

Would I recommend it?

I would! I am going to read the next book in the series and will keep you updated!


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.



Trigger warnings
Anxiety, violence, manipulation, death, talking about dying, illness,
Side characters of colour
Fantasy, romance (new adult)
Publication date
September 17th 2020
Independently published
About the author
As a kid, S.M. Gaither spent way too much time playing video games like Final Fantasy and reading every book she could get her hands on instead of doing silly things like her assigned homework. As an adult…Well, not much has changed. Her goal is to write books that distract others from their life’s obligations, too, thus creating an army of fellow procrastinators over which she can reign supreme. These days, her personal ​favorite places to procrastinate are in the mountains near her North Carolina home, in the company of her husband, their daughter, and their very spoiled dog. 

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