The Silvered by Tanya Huff

It’s actually been ages since I read this one (my very wonderful husband gave it to me for Christmas last year), but I recently read on Tanya Huff’s blog that she won a 2013 Aurora for this novel, and I wanted to do some online cheering. Such a fantastic novel, this one. Jennifer Lynn Barnes was the first to make me eat my words about werewolf and vampire books, and Huff has certainly added fuel to that fire. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First of all, where have I been all my life? I had no idea there was even such a thing as an Aurora! Which, by the way, is the Canadian equivalent of the Hugo award. So, hooray for discovering this because I can now search out all past winners and read them. YUM. But, back to the topic at hand:

The Silvered book review

Mirian has dropped out of the mages’ university. In spite of her incredibly high test scores, she was not excelling. Naturally, she hasn’t told her parents. Meanwhile, trouble is a-brewing in the kingdom and the Emperor is running amok, destroying important members of the mage pack because of a prophecy made by the Imperial Soothsayer. When Mirian witnesses the kidnapping of five members of the mage pack, she knows she has to help. And the prickly yet attractive Thomas, younger brother to the pack leader, is her co-conspirator in the quest to save the kidnapped.

I’ve read a few of Huff’s other books (The Wild Ways, The Fire’s Stone) and really liked them. This was by far my favourite, I have to say. I’ve been waiting anxiously to hear whether she’ll be doing a sequel….

I really believe that Huff is one of Canada’s most talented fantasy writers, and I love how she works a Canadian sense of place into many of her contemporary fantasy novels (many are set in Toronto, and parts of the Wild Ways were even set in Calgary! Imagine!).

If you haven’t read this one, do it. I mean it. Especially if you are into fantasy and werewolves.

Congrats, Tanya Huff on your Aurora!


Fire by Kristin Cashore

When I first started this book, and realized it didn’t share any of the characters with Graceling (save one), I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I was so wrong! Cashore is so talented.

Fire is the last of the human monsters. She is hated for her ability to control minds, a power that her father also possessed and misused, but people are also drawn to her monster beauty; many are even rendered senseless around her. When the king’s brother, Brigan, comes to invite her to King City to meet the king, she goes willingly. The king asks for her help to stop those who would steal his crown, and the power that comes with it. But Fire is afraid she won’t be able to control her power: she is afraid of becoming her father.

Fire felt like a sophomore novel to me — more mature, slightly darker, and not as chaste. You know how much I loved Graceling; I raved about it. I loved fire too, but not as much as Graceling. I don’t know how Cashore does it but I find her heroines are positively magnetic; they feel true, deep, and complex, like real people, and we readers get to see them grow as we make our way through the book. One thing I really like in fantasy books like this is when there are maps at the beginning. I like seeing the layout of Cashore’s world, and how Fire’s lands line up next to Kasha’s. I wish McKinley’s Damar books had maps at the beginning too.

I was surprised, after reading around online a bit, what people didn’t like about this book. Many said it’s basically the same as Graceling, with the same heroine. Fire and Katsa are certainly similar, but for me that was not a bad thing… there’s a reason I like both her books. These are my kind of heroines 😉  Looks like I am a solid member of the niche that Cashore is writing for.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

I went into this book thinking that it was a prequel to The Hero and the Crown, but after reading it, I don’t think it’s either prequel or sequel. It is set after The Hero and the Crown, as characters in that book are mentioned in The Blue Sword, but it’s centred on a whole different cast of characters. I think my confusion stemmed from the fact that the Blue Sword was written before The Hero and the Crown (but is set after). I absolutely loved this book, as I did The Hero and the Crown.

This is the story of Harry (a girl − her full name is Angharad), who must leave Homeland and join her brother at a remote desert outpost after her noble-born father dies. Not long after she adjusts to life at the outpost, the king of the desert lands, Corlath, visits the outpost to request help of the Homelanders in fighting against the invading Northerners. While there, Corlath sees Harry. His kelar, the magical intuition of the desert people, tells him to steal Harry away and bring her back to his city. Harry soon finds that she doesn’t feel as out of place as she thought with the Damarians, the desert people. She even finds that she has kelar herself. When she begins to learn the ways of the Damarians and train in their legendary horsemanship skills, she is confused by her feeling of kinship with these people. When she participates in the apprentice’s fight to prove her horseriding and fighting skills, Corlath gives her Gonturan, the sword of Aerin, and makes her one of the honoured king’s riders, the Laprun. Harry is the first Laprun-minta, female Laprun, in a very long time. She must listen to her kelar and to Gonturan to protect both the Damarians and Homelanders from certain death when the Northerners invade. She defies Corlath’s orders and rides off herself to protect the pass near the desert outpost where her brother is stationed. Of course there’s a bit of romance in the book for Harry, but I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t read it.

Just as she did in The Hero and the Crown, McKinley manages to tell a multi-faceted story effortlessly and beautifully. This book has the same legend- or myth-like quality to the writing that I love so much. After reading this, I have to say again how surprised I was by Pegasus: while it was beautifully written and the world McKinley creates is gorgeous, it didn’t seem to go anywhere for a very long time, and when it finally did, it crept along. I find this amazing, considering how much plot McKinley packed into The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword while still maintaining the mystical quality of her writing and without having the books feel rushed; books that are a quarter of the length of Pegasus. I see that McKinley has written many other books, and I’m now curious to read a few of them (though probably not Sunshine, vampires not being my thing).

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure this is my first Terry Pratchett book. For reals. It was great. An original take on witches, and a great heroine.

For those who haven’t read it, the book is about Tiffany Aching, an intelligent young girl from a small town in The Chalk who is a witch and doesn’t know it. Strange things start to happen, and soon it’s up to her to get her little brother back from the Faerie Queen who has stolen him. Luckily, she has the help of the Nac Mac Feegles (the Wee Free Men): pictsies (pictish pixies?) that are mostly into fightin’, drinkin’, and stealin’.

This was an incredibly clever book. I’m so glad I picked it up and can’t wait to read more about Tiffany Aching. I still can’t believe I didn’t read any Pratchett when I was in junior high (the last period of my life when I was obsessed with fantasy, particularly books by Anne McCaffrey). I think I may have unwittingly lumped his books in with those of the Dragonlance variety (never really floated my boat), since Pratchett books were coming out as quickly as the Dragonlances were in the 90s (at least, that’s how I remember it). Speaking of Anne McCaffrey, I recently found some of my old favourites of hers at a used book sale, and I am so excited about it! I found Dragonsinger and Dragondrums, but am still on the lookout for Dragonsong. Since it’s the first one in the series, I have been trying to see if I can find that to read first before I re-read the other two. I may not be that patient…

Right now I’m reading The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, which is amazing so far. AMAZING. So much better than Pegasus.

Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede

Told ya I had this one comin’ from the library. It was so good I devoured it in a matter of hours. I wish Wrede had written more books about Mairelon and Kim!

Set in the same alternate regency England as Mairelon the Magician, where magic is a part of life, Kim is now living in Merrill’s (Mairelon’s) family home as his ward. She’s learning to talk and look like a lady, and she’s also learning magic. Of course she and Mairelon have a mystery to unravel. I was happy to discover, just at the point of the story where I was thinking, “Kim’s old enough that she could have a romantic interest now, isn’t she?”, one appeared. Excellent.

I may try out some of Wrede’s other series…

Up next: I’m reading the Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (prequel to the Hero and the Crown).

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I can’t remember where I heard about this one, but I recall thinking it sounded decent and had some fantastical elements to the plot, so it would likely be the type of adult trade fiction book I might enjoy.

Willa (great character name; also the name of my cousin’s terrier) grew up in a small town in the southern US where she now runs an outdoor sporting goods store with a coffee shop in it. When the story begins, Willa is avoiding an invitation to an event in the newly restored Blue Ridge Madam, one of the oldest buildings in the town and the former home of Willa’s ancestors. Restoration of the Madam was spear-headed by Paxton, a high school classmate of Willa’s. Paxton’s family bought the Madam and are turning it into an Inn. Paxton’s and Willa’s grandmothers were close friends as girls, but drifted apart as adults. When an old secret is dug up during the restoration, Paxton has a bit of a breakdown and ends up finding a friend in Willa.  Don’t worry, they both have love interests too. Each of Allen‘s characters end up learning to accept themselves for who they are, and by doing so, they also learn to accept each others’ friendship. Awww.

Allen kept me reading with her subplot of the mystery secret that’s dug up at the Blue Ridge Madam. There’s something a bit magical going on, and I liked that element of the story. I liked how Allen portrayed it, too — it wasn’t clear to the characters whether there really WAS magic, but there was something going on, and I liked how it contributed to wrapping up the plot. I also liked how she wrote the romances between Willa and her love interest and Paxton and her love interest. Definitely kept me reading to see what happened.

If this book was a person I knew who was walking down the street towards me, I’d probably give them a non-committal (but not wimpy) high-five and keep on walking.

Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede

This book was great. It’s exactly the kind of book I would have LOVED when I was a kid — heck, I love it now — and I wish I had discovered it when I was younger. It’s a bit heavier on the mystery side of things for my usual tastes but it was a captivating book. I would say it is more of a young readers book than a teen book.

Kim is a street kid living in London, passing as a boy and getting by however she can. When she’s asked to poke around inside a magician’s wagon, she get caught, and receives a surprising offer to join Mairelon, the magician, in his traveling show. Kim’s street smarts and observant eyes come in handy as she tries to help Mairelon unravel a mystery and clear his name as the suspect of a major theft.

I liked Kim so much that immediately after finishing the book I reserved its sequel, Magician’s Ward, from the library. Can’t wait for it to come in! So glad I discovered Patricia C. Wrede, and can’t wait to read more by her.