Christina Farley pulled a rabbit, or rather a Blue Dragon, out of a hat with Gilded (reviewed here); was there anything left in the hat for Silvern? You see, one of the things that made Gilded such a fun, fresh read was the use Korean mythology juxtaposed to modern day Seoul, South Korea and the international students populating this world. So, its sequel, Silvern, had a bit of a challenge; the world Christina Farley created so well is now, comparatively speaking, old hat. Can Silvern generate the same level of excitement with that newly minted shine dulled a bit with use? No, no it can’t. Instead it goes even further, generating a whole new level of intensity with established relationships going deeper, a much more involved romp in the Spirit World and a foray into North Korea. It is a slightly darker, more intense world with our protagonist, Jae Hwa, having to deal with issues and decision making with which no 16 year old ought to have cope. If you thought Jae Hwa was between a rock and a hard place in Gilded, she’s between mountain and fire in Silvern.
NOTE: The third book in the series, Brazen, is coming out September 29th.
Just when you thought it was safe to defeat a demi-god and have a bit of a rest, here comes the god for whom said defeated demi-god served. You’d think he’s come for revenge, but keeping in line with a fine tradition of many bad guys, he looks at this as a recruitment opportunity. “If Jae Hwa defeated my demi-god servant, then she would make for an even better servant,” goes the thinking. That, plus she has some unique characteristics having one foot in South Korea and one in the Spirit World. Of course, those kind of employment opportunities aren’t always presented as an optional choice.
Eventually everything leads to traveling to North Korea to do some reconnaissance and possibly recover a powerful relic. As a side benefit, she helps improve and save lives. There is a rift in the Spirit World that mirrors the 38th parallel, the border between North and South Korea. Palk can’t enter the realm of Kud who rules the North, so Jae Hwa goes to retrieve the orb. Adventure ensues. People are killed or hurt. Mythological creatures are destroyed and life will never be quite the same for our cast of characters. Then there is the cliff, the cliff upon which Ms. Farley hangs us out to dry until the next book. We will not quite be the same again. Seriously, Ms. Farley does a nice job wrapping up the story in Silvern but does leave us over the precipice at the conclusion; I think she kind of likes dangling us over the edge. Be that as it may, she has set herself up for some high expectations to bring this to a beautiful resolution. No pressure or anything.
What did I love about Silvern?
- World Building: While we became more familiar with the Korean Mythic world via Gilded, there is so much rich material here and it was cool to not only explore it, but to be immersed in it.
- Relationships: Relationships become more complicated and extended. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a father who thinks I need to be committed, a boyfriend who is officially assigned as my security detail and a smart girlfriend who will not leave well enough alone. OK, maybe I know a little about that last part. All of this, while always knowing that the “collateral damage” of this battle against Kud may be those for whom she most deeply cares.
- North Korean Tie-In: I thought it was a brilliant move to have the South / North Korean divide the Spiritual World as well. We see parallels (other than the 38th) between these worlds time after time.
- Narrative: While the story line was cool in Gilded, I was so engrossed in the world, the people and the action that the story became almost the thread that held all of it together. In Gilded, it’s a web that pulls many disparate elements into a coherent narrative whole. Now they are both as equally important as Ms. Farley drives forward this battle between good and evil.
- Characters:The level of eyes-wide-open sacrifice that must be made by teenagers is staggering. These guys don’t just give up their Friday night fun to serve, they give themselves. They are fully committed to the endeavor. Their concern, actually, isn’t even so much the price they’ll pay but the price the ones they love pay.
What was I less fond of?
– The Cliffs of Insanity: Of course, we all secretly enjoy cliff-hangers to some extent. We really look forward to the answers to come, but there is that element of “NOOOO. YOU CAN’T DO THIS TO ME!” There might have been a bit of that in our household.
As I often do, I went between the Kindle and Audible versions (using Whispersync for Voice to keep a smooth transition). Greta Jung did a fine job narrating especially within the dialog. I loved her Marc who came off with a bit of smooth, cool voice without being arrogant. I did notice that the fluidity of the dialog didn’t always carry over to the non-dialog reading; I don’t remember this being an issue in Gilded, but the pacing within the non-dialog parts could be a bit stilted and awkward. I’m not sure if this was to help clarity, but I didn’t hear as much nuance and emotion on the non-dialog narration as when there was dialog between characters. Overall, however, Ms. Jung narrates the work well, conveying both the English and Korean cultural elements well. I look forward to Ms. Jung’s narration of the rest of the series.
Silvern does exactly what sequels ought to do; it takes the foundation laid by the first book and takes everything to a deeper level raising the bar for the rest of the series. I highly commend Silvern to your reading pleasure. I.E., it rocks.