Author: Cecilia Tan
Pages/Word Count: 421 Pages
At a Glance: “Love is a friendship set to music.” – Unknown
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Ziggy went to India. Daron traveled the world. Is the music business ready for what happens when they meet again?
When last we saw guitar prodigy Daron Marks, he was on a beach in Australia on the very last day of 1989. A new decade has dawned and Daron has little choice but to embrace change in the face of Ziggy going AWOL and poor record sales. Daron embarks on a journey of artistic growth, studying more styles of guitar and music, a journey that takes him from Virginia to Spain to New York City.
But while he prepares for whatever may come next in his career, is Daron prepared for his inevitable reunion with Ziggy? Ziggy is back and he’s got a plan.
Review: Five-hundred and eighty-four chapters. That’s how far Cecilia Tan has taken her readers into the life of Daron Marks—so far—in Daron’s Guitar Chronicles, a grand feat of altogether consummate storytelling.
From the moment Daron was introduced as a teenager in the 80s in Chapter One, not only afraid of anyone finding out he’s gay but so afraid of simply being gay, Tan has taken readers on a journey deep into the life of her young guitar prodigy. We’ve followed Daron through creative highs and lows; through family drama; through falling in love with the one boy who would turn his life upside down and inside out (not once but a multitude of times…and still is), and the author has done so with an ease so seemingly effortless that we ourselves are notched directly into the world of music and the lives of the characters who people it. This series truly is realistic fiction at some of its finest, consistently blowing me away, chapter after chapter, with attention to detail and a protagonist I’m invested in to the extreme. Daron’s narrative voice is so utterly sincere, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes frustrating, but always engaging. This is one of those series where I want so badly to see whether or not he gets his happy ending (read: the happy ending I want for him), yet…the thought of there being an end is too much to consider.
For seventy-nine chapters in this installment of the serial, we head into the 1990s as we follow Daron from the US to Spain, where he spends a brief interlude with Orlando, a guy who can’t seem to admit out loud that he’s probably gay, or at least bi. And, we get a glimpse of a Daron who is becoming more comfortable in his own identity as a gay man, something his time with Jonathan helped him to do, even though the relationship didn’t end up being what either man needed. Daron’s love for his lead singer Ziggy is always there, always at the forefront of everything for Daron—sometimes even in his music—and we’re teased by an almost-mending of their relationship in these chapters. Now, if only Ziggy were singing the same tune. One of the most frustrating and compelling aspects of this epic masterwork is the push me/pull you of the relationship between these two characters, and how invested I’ve become in their future. It’s an addiction of the sweetest kind.
One of the things Cecilia Tan has done so brilliantly in the first person storytelling is to not only disappear behind this character but to allow us to see Daron through Daron’s eyes. Rather than his voice telling us how we should think and feel at any given moment, I love that there are times when his frustration makes me sad; his sadness makes me frustrated; his anger makes me glad that he’s angry, while at other times I wish he’d step a bit more carefully. And his happiness… well, his happiness only comes in fits and starts, so that makes me sad too. But therein lies the beauty of this series—Tan builds upon the story and characters layer by layer—there are no cookie-cutter caricatures or cardboard stereotypes (even when the music business might demand it)—until you feel a degree of certainty that the author has known these people at some point in her life because they’re so authentic, the investment in them so complete. There isn’t a lot of action in these chapters, nor is there a lot of sex—this is, simply put, literary fiction at its finest: character driven and filled with all the flaws and challenges and perfect imperfections of the human condition, set against the backdrop of Daron’s near-obsessive need to play his guitars.
I know the word count in this series is intimidating. I can’t even begin to fathom how many words into Daron’s life we are now, nor do I know how many more words Cecilia Tan has left to offer her readers, but if there’s ever been a work of storytelling I’d beg someone to dig into, it’s this one. It’s pretty amazing, in my most humble opinion, and deserves all the recognition it’s received so far.
You can buy Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Vol. Seven here: