The Book Smugglers has been celebrating YA Appreciation Month with a whole bunch of reviews and giveaways of YA books as well as interviews/guest posts with some authors who write YA. They posted an open invitation to other bloggers to post reviews or articles about YA books on August 15 and I decided to participate. It was tough to pick a book to review but I ended up settling on the sequel to a very good book I read earlier this year. All the posts about YA books from today’s open invitation can be seen here.
Silksinger, the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor, will be released on September 17, 2009. The first book in this YA fantasy series is Blackbringer, and although it is not crucial to read it before Silksinger, I would recommend doing so since it contains a lot of background information on the world and some of the characters. Also, like the newest Dreamdark novel, Blackbringer is a wonderful story that is full of vibrant characters.
The remaining members of the Silksinger faerie clan are pursued by devils and forced to flee their home. Soon young Whisper finds herself the very last of her clan when her grandparents sacrifice themselves in order to save her in hopes that she can perform the clan duty. Though they were believed to be wiped out long ago, the Silksingers have actually been guarding Azazel, one of the seven Djinn who created the world. Azazel promised he would awaken again if they brought him back to his throne so it is now up to Whisper to make sure he gets there. All alone with nothing but the tattered clothes on her back and the teakettle containing Azazel, it seems hopeless that quiet little Whisper will be able to get a caravan to her destination – at least until she meets Hirik, a young mercenary who also has a secret.
Meanwhile, Magpie Windwitch, her friend Talon and her band of crows are attempting to find all the Djinn. In order to locate them, they have enlisted the “help” of Batch Hangnail, an imp who can only be coerced into joining them with the promise of the one thing he has always dreamed of: flying. Talon has the ability to create skins and will make one for Batch modeled after any type of wing he wants once their mission is over. However, the group does not get very far before they hear of Whisper’s plight and determine to guide her to safety.
Blackbringer was a fine debut and I had a lot of fun reading it, but I thought Silksinger was even better than the first installment. I really loved everything about Silksinger – the succinct yet descriptive writing, the pacing, the characters, and the world and its history. It also contains a few illustrations by Jim di Bartolo, the author’s husband. Not only are the pictures lovely but they also tend to look very close to what I pictured in my mind when reading about the characters depicted. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be that it was predictable at times, but that is really a very minor criticism since it did not lessen my enjoyment much. Plus there was a part toward the end where I was caught by surprise, although the way it turned out made far more sense than what I had believed to be the case.
For about the first half of the book, more time is spent with the new characters (Whisper and Hirik) than with Magpie, who was the main character in the first book. Normally, when I read a book in the series and the focus drifts away from the main character, I become impatient and find I just want to read about the character I’ve already become attached to. In the very beginning, I did want to read more about Magpie than Whisper or Hirik, but it wasn’t very long before I found myself captivated by both new characters. In fact, even though I still loved Magpie, I found myself more excited to be reading about Whisper or Hirik. By the end of the book, Magpie was the primary character again, but as much as I’d come to love the Silksinger and the mercenary, I still wasn’t disappointed – it was time for Magpie to be in the limelight again and that’s what worked.
The characters are so well drawn and memorable; Magpie and Whisper are my favorites. Magpie is the same fierce, feisty warrior she was in the first book. She’s loyal to her friends, has dedicated her life to fighting devils and she’s basically impossible not to like. Although she is generally good, she is tough and is not always perfect – she does make a bad judgment call at one point that costs her dearly. In contrast, Whisper appears very different from the outspoken Magpie, although she is a lot stronger than she seems. The Silksingers are named because they have the ability to weave magic with their singing, and they use this magic to make flying carpets. (As scamperers, the Silksingers do not have the ability to fly themselves since their wings are too small to carry them.) Whisper’s voice is especially powerful, but she has never learned to fully master it so she usually whispers. Yet Whisper is very determined, and throughout the story, no matter what is happening to her, she clutches that teakettle containing Azazel like her very life depends on it. I liked Hirik almost as much as Magpie and Whisper, but I’m going to avoid talking about him too much for fear of giving away too much about his secrets.
Other than the characters my favorite element of the series is the world of Dreamdark itself. The world of Dreamdark (and beyond, really, since most of this book takes place outside of Dreamdark) is well developed with a rich history. The stories of the Djinn, heroes of the past, the Silksinger clan and how they came to be guardians of Azazel, and many others are woven throughout the tale.
Silksinger has action, adventure, vivid and unforgettable characters, and a well-realized setting. Although it can be a bit predictable, that does not detract from this fantastic novel very much, and I loved it even more than the first book in this series.
Reviews of other books in this series: