Disclaimer: My love for this book has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that almost every scene features a chiseled, butt-naked werewolf. Nothing at all. Nope.
Okay, maybe a little of it has to do with naked werewolves. But I should start at the beginning.
The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen—she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader—to save them. Together the two set out on the kidnappers’ trail, racing into the heart of enemy territory. With every step the odds against them surviving and succeeding soar…
What the summary doesn’t tell you about The Silvered is that the story is not solely focused on Mirian and Tomas; the POV characters also include Danika, the captured Alpha wife of Aydori’s were Pack (and a powerful Air mage), and Captain Reiter, the steadfast soldier whose goal is to capture the six mages of prophecy and deliver them to the crazed Imperial emperor. I point this out because the four POVs practically fleshed out the world and the story. Yes, it was a straightforward plot–save the kidnapped from the maniacally evil emperor-of-doom–but getting from Point A to Point B was the most interesting bit.
Things I Loved in The Silvered
The magic system. Admittedly, I got a little over-excited when it was all about elemental mastery, and when Mirian managed to do two elements at a relatively high skill level, I was all: “OH GOD SHE’S THE AVATAR SHE CAN MASTER ALL THE ELEMENTS” (yes, I truly went there).
The technological innovations. The book read like steampunk. While magic runs strongly in the Aydori side, the Empire puts its trust on science and technology, using machines to combat the magic of the north. This may not be such a big problem for the Pack, whose healing abilities are superb, but the Imperials have their trump card: silver, a poison for the Pack.
The interesting relationship between the Mage-pack and the Pack (Were-pack), and how relationships are forged between them through the Pack’s sense of smell. Of course there are other variables that determine whether a Pack member decides to marry a particular mage and vice versa, but it was refreshing–and almost humorous–to be judged first on how well someone smelled versus how she looked. It worked wonders for Mirian after all.
The kick-ass female characters. I’m not just talking about Mirian (who I will talk about later). For me, the story was at its best in Danika’s perspective. Here’s a woman whose Air magic is bound and limited by a magical artifact that she can’t remove. She’s captured, injured, and worried completely about a Pack husband fighting in the front lines. Because of some prophecy, she and four other Mage-pack women are forcefully dragged into the heart of the Empire, where they would be kept as both prisoners and scientific experiments (that shit was truly disturbing). And should I also mention that she–and her captured Mage-pack members–were pregnant? Yet as scared as she was and as helpless as her situation had been, Danika continued to fight the Empire as best as she could whilst trying to keep her Mage-pack from falling into complete despair. Talk about earning the Mother-of-the-Century award.
Captain Reiter. He was probably the character with the most fully realized story arc. I can’t really say much else about that, because yeah, spoilers, but seriously, the amount of moral dilemmas he goes through in the book could probably match my un-read books stack.
The worldbuilding. There was a lot to be seen of the world between Aydori and the Empire, and regardless of which character perspective it was at the time, chances are the reader was seeing a new place. Locations also varied from cities to towns to lots and lots of wild forests and open countryside.
The unabashed storytelling. This is a fantasy book for adults, and I would not recommend it to children. There was a lot of nakedness and cursing in the book. Yet, for all its nudity, it was actually pretty tame in that respect. There was also modern language mixed into the fray, and while normally I’m a little cagey about modern language usage in a non-urban fantasy, it worked in the book’s advantage.
Things I’m on the Fence About in The Silvered
Mirian’s overpowered magic. Admittedly, this is just a tiny, tiny quibble on my part, but by the end Mirian is practically a one-woman army. I kind of like this idea, but at the same time I’m wondering if it was really necessary of her to go bat-shit OP on everyone. But I suppose, depending on my mood, it can go either way (I did, after all, appreciate how she dealt with some of the horrid Imperial soldiers).
The romance. I felt it was one-sided, and I think this is because for the first half of the book, Mirian’s romantic inclinations had been focused on one other. Even by the end, I was left unsure about whether or not anything ever blossomed between Tomas and Mirian, other than the fact that Tomas would be with her for a long, long time (but again, this, to me, felt one-sided). There might have been a sentence or two somewhere at the end that clarified their relationship, but I can’t remember this was so.
Things I Didn’t Love in The Silvered
The ending. It ended. Why. WHY? There was so much more that I wanted out of the end that I’m actually a little annoyed that the story didn’t keep going. It got me asking if Tanya Huff would write another book on this world, would write more on the Mage-pack and the war (I’m not even sure the war ended!). I had a hard enough time coming to terms with the fact that Graceling ended, now this. Gods, this is sad.
Um. That was probably it with the negatives. There was so much to like that whatever else that may have annoyed me was pushed back to the corner of my mind and eventually replaced with all the good stuff. I can probably say there were scenes that disturbed me, scenes that made me sad, scenes that made me angry, but those are just signs that The Silvered got me invested in the story.
It was an absolutely terrific read, and probably one of my favorites this year. I’m glad my friend actually sent me a hardcover copy of it as an early birthday gift. Now if only I can find the shelf-space…