As far as I know, The Silvered by Tanya Huff is one of those rare creatures that at times may seem like a myth in itself—a stand alone fantasy book. While I love reading some books that tell a complete story on their own, I am hoping that this one does end up having a sequel or two. I thought The Silvered was delightful, and I would love to return to this setting and characters.
The Silvered combines mages and werewolves in a secondary fantasy world. The Kresentian Empire, led by an emperor enamored of science and technology, abhors the Aydori with their beastmen, whom they consider to be abominations. Their war is largely a backdrop for the story of four courageous characters—Tomas, brother of the Pack Leader; Mirian, a young woman who flunked magic school; Danika, a powerful air mage married to the Pack Leader; and Captain Sean Reiter of the Kresentian Empire, tasked with capturing six mages who prophets claimed would impact the empire.
As her family is fleeing the city before an impending invasion by the Kresentian army, Mirian witnesses the seizure of Danika and four other mages by Reiter and his men. To her mother’s great dismay, Mirian leaves her family behind in order to find Lord Hagen and inform him of the capture of his wife and the other women. However, this doesn’t turn out quite as planned, and Mirian herself along with Tomas may be the only ones who can rescue the Mage-pack from the Empire: a task made more difficult by Reiter’s search for the sixth mage of prophecy, whom he believes to be Mirian.
The Silvered is my third book by Tanya Huff and my favorite (although The Fire’s Stone is really good too!). There’s an objective side of me that realizes there are some problems with this book, mainly that it is the opposite of subtle and starts a little slowly, but I don’t really care that much because I loved it. The characters, their interactions, the subversion of some of the werewolf and fantasy tropes, and the sense of humor in the narrative and dialogue all worked very well for me.
The characters were the highlight of this novel. The main protagonists were all decent individuals, though capable of making mistakes or possessing beliefs that needed to be unlearned. They were all people trying to do the best they could in a bad situation. Despite the capture of several of the women, there were no damsels in distress in The Silvered. Sure, Danika and the other women were upset and frightened when they were captured, but as Reiter noted there was “a distinct lack of weeping and wailing” (pp. 83). These women were clever and resilient, and they did what they could to resist and plan for possible escape opportunities.
While all four main characters were interesting, my favorite was sensible and brave Mirian. When Mirian witnesses the capture of part of the Mage-pack, she doesn’t sit idly by and leave the city safely as planned but goes out and does something about it—first by trying to find the Pack Leader, then by trying to rescue them herself. Along the way, she and Tomas also rescue each other, and she never lets him forget it if he mentions he rescued her. I also found her reaction to the typical werewolf dominance struggle when she and Tomas run into another wolf particularly refreshing and unexpected:
Mirian didn’t have the patience to put up with it.
“Enough!” She used the wind to whip the word between the two of them, then, as they scrambled apart, put herself there bodily. “We’re no threat to you,” she told the stranger, “and you’re not threat to us, so just stop it! Tomas!” [pp. 337]
Mirian is an incredible character with a lot of inner strength and determination, and she has to face some tough choices throughout her journey as she comes to master her unusual magic. In many ways, Mirian is a nearly perfect character and I can see some readers feeling that she is too flawless. I felt that she underwent enough hardship and had a big enough disadvantage that she wasn’t too perfect, but she is closer to perfection than I generally like to see in my characters. She’s written in such a way that I enjoyed reading about her and found her very likable, though.
One other element I appreciated about The Silvered was how realistic it was. There is a war taking place, and people die. Certain expectations set up at the beginning did not come to be because of war. When Mirian is traveling for days, it is acknowledged that she is dirty with messy hair and not particularly attractive to look at (even if she smells amazing!).
This brings me to my biggest issue with The Silvered: a lack of subtlety and repetition. Wolves are attracted to mages primarily by smell, and it’s difficult to forget that Mirian smells amazing because it is mentioned constantly. This can lead to amusing situations, and it seems like something that would come up a lot since it’s portrayed as being very distracting to Tomas. However, this amazing smell, the lines of the prophecy, and how shocked the men of the Empire were to discover the beastmen seemed like people were repeated so many times I felt like these points were hammered into my brain far more than necessary. This did seem to be better in the second half of the book (or maybe I was just so absorbed in the story I didn’t notice as much then), but there were still some similar annoyances. Mirian frequently reflected on how her adventures were not like in the novels, another pet peeve of mine. Also, there is a scene at the end that is set up very obviously and the line uttered before it makes this worse.
While The Silvered suffers from one of my biggest pet peeves with its constant need to remind readers about the obvious, its advantages far outweighed any issues. It contains a cast of characters I truly cared about, and one of the best “strong” female protagonists I’ve read about recently. In addition, I enjoyed reading about the world Tanya Huff created, and I appreciated the dialogue and the occasional humor. While the beginning was a bit slow, it was not long before I was absorbed in this story, and I would be thrilled if I ever heard news of a sequel.
My Rating: 8.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: I was sent the UK edition by its publisher.
Other Reviews of The Silvered: