Title: Silent Hall
Author: N.S. Dolkart
Published: June 7, 2016
Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. Receipt of a review copy does not guarantee a review, or have any bearing on the review if one is posted. I only review books that I recommend, and that are are within the particular scope of the blog.
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Five refugees from a plague-stricken island cross the continent searching for answers. Instead they find Psander, a wizard whose fortress is invisible to the gods, and who is willing to sacrifice anything – and anyone – to keep the knowledge of the wizards safe.
With Psander as their patron, the refugees cross the mountains, brave the territory of their sworn enemies, confront a hostile ocean and even traverse the world of the fairies in search of magic powerful enough to save themselves – and Psander’s library – from the wrath of the gods. All they need to do is to rescue an imprisoned dragon and unleash a primordial monster upon the world. How hard could it be?
Characterization and badassery
Our cast of five characters is the main draw here. We get two girls and three boys, from differing social classes and levels of education. They are young people, thrust together as (mostly) strangers and forced to work together. In that way, it reminds me of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Back when the characters were naïve and new to how their world worked. There’s also Psander, the wizard the kids try to rely on, who is anything but a Gandalf sort. An interesting character, to be sure.
Bandu is probably my favorite character, as something of a wolf-raised wild child. Somehow, she usually tends to make more sense than the other characters, due to her particular wisdom. All five characters bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the group, in a way that makes the whole book work.
Plot and pacing
The plot takes a backseat to the characters. There’s a lot of oh-powerful-gods stuff with a few too many gods for me to be able to keep track of. There’s also a lot of traveling from one city to another, which starts to get tedious, but is often a problem in fantasy books where feet and horses are the mode of transportation.
The plot does work, overall. It seemed to get postponed for side quests after the group arrives at Silent Hall. But still, the characters kept driving the story, so it did keep pushing forward even though there’s a somewhat disjointed feeling to the side quests. But for an author’s first book, this does quite well.
Prose and editing
Excellent. Angry Robot turns out quality books.
Bandu’s lack of understanding about social norms creates some cute moments of amusement, which are welcome bright spots that allow the characters to loosen up a little.
An excellent debut from a new author. Not without a few creaky bits here and there, but what a lush world of magics and peoples, gods, and dragons. What’s more, the author set it all in a patriarchal world, yet delivers some rather feminist notions in a very organic way. Likewise, there are nuggets about racism and even domestic violence, but done so subtly and woven in so smoothly that they don’t stand out as such. They just blend in to make a much rounder story that has a lot more to say than the typical medieval-patriarchy fantasy. A delightful surprise, and cleverly done.
Definitely a cliffhanger ending. Everything just kind of stops at a certain point. Like when a bird is flying along, then BAM hits a window. At least, that’s how they always feel to me. Other people don’t have the same hangup about cliffhangers, so it’s a your-mileage-may-vary sort of thing.
Overall, I’d call it a highly enjoyable read.