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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George" (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Jessica Day George's Website Here

OVERVIEW: Society girls from New York City circa 1890, Dacia and Lou never desired to know more about their lineage, instead preferring to gossip about the mysterious Romanian family that they barely knew. But upon turning seventeen, the girls must return to their homeland to meet their relatives, find proper husbands, and—most terrifyingly—learn the deep family secrets of The Claw, The Wing, and The Smoke. The Florescus, after all, are shape-shifters, and it is time for Dacia and Lou to fulfill the prophecy that demands their acceptance of this fate... or fight against this cruel inheritance with all their might.

With a gorgeous Romanian setting, stunning Parisian gowns, and dark brooding young men, readers will be swept up by this epic adventure of two girls in a battle for their lives.

FORMAT: Silver in the Blood is a YA/middle school fantasy novel set in 1890 Romania. It tells the tale of two cousins who happen to be NYC socialites as they make their journey to visit their family in Romania.

Silver in the Blood could ultimately be read as a standalone novel. There may be plans to add other novels to this series in the future. Silver in the Blood was published July 7, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens. It stands at 358 pages.

ANALYSIS: I am a huge fan of Jessica Day George's fairy tale retellings. She has the ability to take a familiar fairy tale, give it a twist, and still make it good. When I heard about a new potential series by her, I had to jump at the opportunity. After all, she's written over a half dozen different books that have all been amazing, so why would this new series be any different? Unfortunately, it was.

Silver in the Blood is one of those novels that doesn't just have one major thing wrong with it. Instead, it has a lot of little things that, when combined, make for a truly poor novel.

First, Silver in the Blood is an extremely slow novel. It was almost unbearably slow. For the first 200 pages or so, readers are given slight hints into what the 'big' secret may be for the family. The characters threw out a lot of side comments, such as 'wait until three days' time, you will understand all' or 'Yes, you will fly, as soon as you learn what it is like to be The Claw'.

Now, I understand the use of foreshadowing, but unfortunately this was taken to the extreme. I found it extremely difficult to understand how a family that had kept a secret for nearly 17 years would just all of a sudden start dropping these major bombshell comments. It just seemed overdone to the point that eventually I just wanted to scream "Tell me what this all means!".

When there weren't not-so-subtle hints to the family's big secret being dropped, there was non-stop talk about dresses and fashion. The two main characters, 17-year old cousins Dacia and Lou, were extremely obsessed with fashion and dresses, and we – the readers – had to be just as obsessed with it. There were lengthy paragraphs about dress shopping and details about what clothing was worn and why it was worn.

I completely understand, and appreciate, details about the clothing characters wear. Unfortunately, these characters went a bit overboard. There would be major events going on throughout the book and instead of being upset that there was a kidnapping going on, they would be worried that they hadn't dressed appropriately or that someone saw them in their undergarments.

I get that at the time, around the 1890s, that women were not as independent or free as they are today. But I would think that if – say a guy was stalking your cousin and creeping her out – you would be more concerned with her safety than what she was wearing or why you haven't received the latest dress from Paris.

Another aspect that really interrupted the flow of the novel was the random letters or diary entries between chapters. They didn't fit. Sometimes a scene would be interrupted in the middle to show a letter. The reader would read the letter, which didn't have anything to do with the scene, and then the scene would pick up right where it left off in the next chapter.

For the most part, I was willing to go along with the novel and chalk it up to a light, fluffy middle school/YA read, until 'the scene' happened. I call it the scene because it will be a deciding factor in how you feel about the novel. In order to understand the scene properly, I need to give a little back story.

Prince Mihai believes that he should be the rightful king of Romania. Dacia and Lou's family have sworn to help him, and his family, place him on the throne as the rightful king. A few things happen, but ultimately things do not go as smoothly as he wants them to and in an effort to get his way, the evil/bad Prince Mihai has one of the cousins kidnapped. It is while she is kidnapped that the dreadful 'scene' happens.

Before the scene, Prince Mihai is portrayed as a bit mean, a little evil, and ultra-handsome. Readers aren't sure if he's just a goofy, misunderstood villain or a super bad guy. And then this happens. Dacia is kidnapped and out of nowhere Prince Mihai utters this little monologue:

"If she (Dacia) refuses, I will simply force myself on her, and ruin her more effectively than simply being abducted in her underthings has already done. And if she still refuses I will tie her to this chair and force her to watch while I have my way with you (Lou)."

I am not sure what the exact purpose of this scene was or why it was necessary. Mind you, before these scene things were all fashion, cute boys, and life is easy. All of a sudden the major villain is threatening to rape one cousin and if he doesn't get his way he will continue to rape the other while the other one watches. Now, remember this is ultimately a middle grade/YA novel, so there is some room to debate how appropriate it is for this type of character development.

I don't think this scene would have been as upsetting, if it had served some purpose. It felt hastily thrown in there and out of place for the character. Not to mention, it never came up again. It was added purely to create drama and make it known to readers that Prince Mihai is evil. It was also done as a way to make women look and feel helpless and without power. It was the jarring effect the scene had that really just confirmed that it wasn't a book I was going to love.

I will admit that if you stick it out, the book does pick up a little – very little. Approximately around page 225 or 250, things really pick up and there are some action scenes, the characters tend to do more than talk about boys, and the pacing really speeds up. Unfortunately, by that point I think readers are already going to have given up and stopped reading, or they will just be plodding along and not really feeling the story.

If there is one thing that I did like about the novel, and probably the only reason I kept reading, was the Romanian setting. I found the culture and buildings and time period fascinating. It wasn't enough to offset the other aspects of the novel, but it kept my interest.

Jessica Day George is an extremely talented author. Silver in the Blood was one of those novels that really just didn't have the 'it' factor to be wonderful. I think die-hard fans of George's other books may find this book interesting and probably enjoy it, but it certainly is not her strongest novel. Minus the rape scene, I could definitely see the middle school audience enjoying the novel, but I think for an older audience it just doesn't have what it takes to captivate people's attention.


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