Too Much Tarnish to Shine: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

Posted 23rd June 2019 by Siavahda in Fantasy Reviews, Queer Lit, Reviews / 0 Comments

Representation: Queer Protagonists (Gay)
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists

I suspect most people who pick this up are going to enjoy it immensely, but although it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year…this one’s just not for me.

Minor spoilers below. 

The major thing for me is that this is what I’ve seen called a HFN ending – a happy-for-now ending instead of a happy-ever-after one. In particular, it’s a HFN ending with an implicit very unhappy ending to follow sometime after the books is over. Unless there’s a sequel which resolves the issue – and to be honest I’m not sure I want a sequel – one member of a couple being immortal, and the other one not? The mortal is eventually going to die and leave the immortal one alone. So having your characters walk off-screen holding hands feels like a slap in the face; the immediate threat has been resolved, but the story isn’t over – despite the fact that the way it was written does make me think no sequel is intended.

Unhappy endings, I get (although I dislike them). Happy endings, I get. Unhappy endings that pose as happy ones? For some reason I find those deeply upsetting. I can’t see how to put the ‘why’ of it into words, though, so I’m just going to hope that you can make sense of that. 

Although the opening was wonderful, and Silver and Tobias’ first meeting was utterly delightful (‘now that’s just slander’ will be making me laugh for a while!) I was not at all convinced by their almost-romance. The revelation that comes when Tobias meets Silver’s mother suddenly reframes all of Silver’s behaviour in a very different light, and I’m not sure if I was supposed to find it cute or funny or what – but instead it just felt manipulative, needless and awful. It also makes absolutely no sense to me why Silver chose to behave in the way he did; the only vaguely believable motive I can come up with is that he enjoys messing with people, or else that he was…constantly and consistently lying? For his own enjoyment, or for no reason at all? I have no idea. But it certainly didn’t make me see him in a good light, and that wouldn’t be so much of an issue if I thought the writer had intended for me to feel that way. Instead, it just feels like weak writing.

I wonder if this might have done better as a novel rather than a novella; defeating the Big Bad, for example, seemed much, much simpler than I would have expected, and his actual defeat seemed to happen so easily. It feels rushed, as does the fateful year (or half-year? I only read this about an hour ago and I’m already losing details, that’s how an impression it made on me) when Tobias is on his own. Being able to spread the story out across more pages and add a lot more details might have made this into something really special; it might just not have had the room it needed in a novella to tell the story properly. 

Either way, I suspect I won’t be looking up this author again.


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