Pros: Riveting tale of war, conquest, magic, and technology
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The Empire is spreading, conquering its neighbors; the emperor seems to have a particular interest in overthrowing Aydori. In Aydori the Hunt Pack (werewolves) rule together with the Mage Pack. They’re powerful, but the emperor has new weapons including silver bullets, rockets, and more. Within the borders of the empire werewolves have been declared abominations. Mirian–who tested as high in magic, but was never able to progress beyond first level magics–witnesses the kidnapping of the Mage Pack by Imperials, and sets off to free them. Joining her is Tomas, a young werewolf who has just lost most of his family. The mages have been neutralized using old magical artifacts, so while they certainly aren’t harmless, they’ve lost most of their tools for escape. The mages are being transported by carriage back to the heart of the empire, while Mirian and Tomas have only their feet. Mirian’s magic seems to be slipping past the bounds of what she should be capable of, but there are other dangers in losing herself to her magic.
Tanya Huff is one of my all-time favorite authors. I only really discovered her this year, so I’ve been devouring her past publications (luckily there are lots of them). Today I got to The Silvered; it’s a blend of fantasy, steam punk, and military fiction. Ms. Huff seems able to conquer any genre she sets her mind to, and I love this particular blend. I was riveted shortly after starting.
I love the characters. Tomas and Mirian and their gradually shifting relationship have so much depth and warmth to them. The members of the Mage Pack are wonderful–they have their strengths and weaknesses, their foibles and cares, and watching them trying to survive the situation they’ve been placed in is heartbreaking. There’s also plenty of depth given to most of their pursuers; it becomes quite easy to empathize and sympathize with characters on both sides.
The ‘country using steam-tech’ and ‘country using magic’ are not nearly as straightforward as they are in other novels. Aydori has electric lights and pocket watches despite their reliance on magic. The empire has its Soothsayers and old, barely-understood magical artifacts that they occasionally use to supplement their technologies. (As well as a few werewolves hidden away here and there.) It makes more sense, that the magic and tech would be on a continuum rather than a binary setting.
There’s plenty of tension, action, horror (there are some dark moments in here–appropriately so, not excessive). I had trouble putting the book down for lunch and kept reading snatches of it around everything else I had to get done. Thankfully, much like other Tanya Huff novels, The Silvered does not end on a cliffhanger, but does leave plenty of room for further stories. I certainly hope there will be more!