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Friday, August 17, 2018

SPFBO: Silverglen by E. A. Burnett (Reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)


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AUTHOR INFORMATION: E.A. Burnett is a teen fantasy author. She has received honorable mention for her short story "Iskossaya," and was a finalist for the short story "The Sash-Maker and the Contradictory Queen," in the Writers of the Future Contest. "Silverglen," is her debut novel.

Burnett grew up devouring works by Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, and Philip Pullman, among many other authors. She began her first novel in grade-school, with her youngest sister as her primary audience, and hasn't stopped writing since.

Today, Burnett lives outside of Columbus, Ohio with her husband and their black Labrador. When she isn't working or writing, she likes to garden, sing, and enjoy her husband's delicious cooking.

CLASSIFICATION: Silverglen is a YA fantasy novel with strong female protagonist.

FORMAT/INFO: Silverglen is 411 pages long divided over forty three numbered chapters. The narration is in the first person via Ember. It’s a standalone novel.

The book is available in e-book and paperback formats. It was self-published by the author. Cover art and design are by Leesha Hannigan and Bookcoverworld.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Silverglen is E. A. Burnett’s debut novel. It's a teen epic fantasy about a young woman who must leave home when her shapeshifting abilities are discovered.

Her father - Lord Arundel is known for his hate for shape-shifters. As a powerful wizard able to devise intricate spells, he's not the one to play with. Especially that torture is one of his preferred pastimes. Lord Arundel's minion - Fletch is even worse, a cunning, gross man driven by low instincts and petty wickedness.

Ember flees her home and discovers other shapeshifters. She'll have to gain their trust and overcome many obstacles before she's fully accepted. Lord Arundel doesn't putter, though, Danger is close and it's up to Ember to save those close to her heart. Fortunately, She's a skilled heroine - a shapeshifter able to perform magic and read spells of other wizards has a pretty unique set of preternatural skills. They come in handy in many situations.

Ember is easy to like. She's brave, fierce and caring. She's not willing to use her powers to hurt others (although at times it would be reasonable). It's nice to see her learn new things and discover herself. While she's probably not the most complex heroine ever, I was pleased to explore the world through her perspective.

Secondary characters were fun and well defined. Shape-shifters are such a colourful band with all exotic and shocking behaviours (like mating in the middle of the camp). One of them, Kitt, gets much more attention than the rest. In the beginning, Kitt doesn't trust Ember. It changes, obviously, but their growing bond didn't feel forced or rushed.

The author’s prose is, for the most part, excellent. There’s very little awkward sentences or ill-constructed descriptions in the book. Actually, I would go as far as to say Burnett's prose has a great flow to it. It never stumbles around. It's pleasant to read and follow.

The characters and the events are well-described, and the pacing of the novel is, mostly, brisk. Shortly after starting in, you get to the meat of the story. There are parts were pacing becomes slower, and I'm not sure if some parts of the book weren't too long.

My main issues concern villains who feel somewhat two-dimensional. Additionally, as it's teen fantasy, some of the personal dramas of characters weren't convincing to me. I appreciate the resolutions, but I can't say I was thrilled and immersed all the time.

CONCLUSION: In the end, it's good standalone YA book with fitting bitter-sweet ending. I appreciate E.A. Burnett's rich imagination and nicely developed world. I would recommend the book for younger readers looking for an original* epic fantasy book.

* As I don't read that much YA / teen fantasy I may be wrong here. On the other hand, I read a lot (100-150 books per year), and I think Burnett's take on shapeshifters is exciting and definitely not recycled.

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