When last we left the intrepid — and tiny — heroes of Blackbringer, Magpie, Talon, and company were leaving on a task set to Magpie by the Magruwen (the Djinn King). Their mission: To find the last five of the Djinn who created the world.
In Silksinger we meet Whisper Silksinger, the last remaining member of a clan of faeries who weave flying carpets (because they’re all “scamperers,” meaning their wings are too small to carry them). She, too, has a mission. Her clan has long been the protectors of the Djinn known as the Azazel. As the last Silksinger, she must bring the Azazel (only an ember smoldering away in a teakettle) to his throne, where he will, she hopes, awaken. It’s a burden Whisper carries alone, as she doesn’t believe she can share her secret with anyone else.
Along the way she meets Hirik, a young mercenary with a few secrets of his own. He finds himself drawn to Whisper for reasons he can’t understand. And Whisper will need friends, because it’s not only the good guys who hope the find her. DREAMDARK is full of monsters and devils, many of whom would like to lay their hands on the Azazel for themselves.
Silksinger starts with a bang. Apparently Laini Taylor is determined to shave a few years off my life, as the opening chapter grabs the reader by the throat and runs (or flies, as might be more appropriate).
The first thing I noticed about Silksinger is that I never had trouble liking or relating to Whisper. Hers is a very different kind of strength from Magpie’s. Whisper has no weapons or fighting skills and is generally timid; even her family doesn’t quite believe she has what it takes to successfully complete her task. Nor does she herself. But in reality, she personifies the saying “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that something is more important than fear.” No matter that she doesn’t believe she can do it; no matter how hopeless the circumstances, Whisper never gives up, never stops trying to at least do something. Therefore her strength always appears genuine and, for me at least, she was extremely relatable.
Laini Taylor juggles quite a few characters in Silksinger, some new, some not. Overall I find that I like her characters or, when I’m not really supposed to like them, still find them well-written. In one of Silksinger’s few weak spots, she doesn’t quite manage to keep all her balls in the air as well as could be. Talon, for example, who was one of my favorite characters in Blackbringer, isn’t physically absent, but the actual character of him is barely there until the end of the book.
It’s hard to really talk about the plot without spoilers. It’s not quite as straightforward as the plot in Blackbringer, adding a few twists to the good vs. evil mix.
I continue to be impressed by Taylor’s world-building skills. This time she takes the reader along a trading route via dragonfly caravans. The stops along the route are full of striking imagery:
As for the faeries, they were so fine and fancy she could scarcely stop staring at them. The gents wore colored turbans and great twirled mustaches, and the ladies had jewelry pierced right through the edges of their wings. Their garments were caftans and capes, and around their necks they wore, each and every one of them, coins with holes in their centers, strung on long silver chains.
The coins mentioned are called “tink” and they’re the main mode of payment along the caravan route. It’s these small but meticulous details that make Taylor’s world such a wonderful setting to read about:
But the real treasure was at Iceshimmer, where the local clan laid out a sparkling array of tiaras and jewelry that looked to be made of diamonds and crystal but were really ice, spelled not to melt. There were skeins of lace knit of real snowflakes too, and magical ice mirrors that disclosed visions to the gazer.
Lovely and fascinating. And for me, at least, I find myself struck by the fact that I actually remember this. While I always have had a frightening ability to remember the sequence of events in books, among other details, usually prose doesn’t stand out. No matter how good or how bad, it’s rare for me to remember something clearly enough to be able to go back and pick it out; it all bleeds together, even if it’s beautiful. But as I mentioned in my review of Blackbringer, Laini Taylor really uses her prose to effect.
Silksinger has few slow moments and a lot to recommend it. Though the series is labeled for an age group of 9-12, it’s perfectly satisfying fare for adults as well. So if your son or daughter has these sitting on their shelves, go steal — er, I mean, borrow them.