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Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi (reviewed by Caitlin Grieve)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Caitlin's review of The Gilded Wolves
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Vishakanya's Choice

is the author of commercial and critically acclaimed books for middle grade and young adult readers that draws on world mythology and folklore. Her work has been nominated for the Locus and Nebula awards, and has frequently appeared on Best of The Year lists from Barnes and Noble, Forbes, Buzzfeed and more. Her New York Times bestselling series includes The Star-Touched Queen duology, The Gilded Wolves, and Aru Shah and The End of Time, which was recently optioned for film by Paramount Pictures.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

FORMAT/INFO: The Silvered Serpents was published on September 22nd, 2020 by Wednesday Books. It is 416 pages split over 36 chapters and a prologue and epilogue. It is told in third person from the POVs of Séverin, Laila, Zofia, and Enrique. It is available in hardcover, ebook and audiobook formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: After tragedy struck Séverin and his friends a few months ago, Séverin has become completely consumed with the need to destroy the Fallen House. He knows that the Fallen House is driven to unite the Fragments of Babel, and so he turns his attention to locating a relic known as The Divine Lyrics, a book that contains the secret of magically mending the broken pieces of the Tower of Babel. Séverin and his team must race across Europe to decipher riddles and clues and find the relic before either the Fallen House or the other Houses can beat them to it. But what Séverin hasn’t told the others is that his goal isn’t to safeguard The Divine Lyrics; he hopes to be able to wield the power of the Fragments himself. After all, a person with the power of a God has the power to undo their past mistakes….

Once again, this series is here to completely sweep me off my feet with my love for the characters. I had some problems with The Gilded Wolves, but I completely adored the found family contained within. It’s a testament to the first book that I remembered almost every character as soon as they were mentioned, instead of my usual head-scratching as I tried to place people from a story I’d read almost two years ago. The one weak link character, Enrique (who I honestly had to go back and confirm was a POV character last time), gets way more time to shine in The Silvered Serpents, and surprisingly became one of my favorites. Enrique is a shy historian who just wants people to acknowledge his existence and listen to him, and his attempts to find love in both the wrong and right places were utterly endearing.

The overall plot of The Silvered Serpents is a fantastically fun adventure, a treasure hunt that globe hops a little bit before settling into unraveling the mysteries of an ice palace. The author continues to have a weakness when it comes to moment-to-moment action, however. I found myself occasionally rereading a few passages trying to understand how a character physically got from Point A to Point B as there was no description of them doing so. This is a book where things tend to just happen, with a bit of handwaving to the actual steps in the process. It’s a testament to how strong I found the character work (or perhaps how much I prioritize good characters over everything else) that I found this handwaving a minor inconvenience rather than something that completely broke the book.

The Silvered Serpents also continues to touch on themes of belonging and the ramifications of colonialism. Although it was less prominently discussed in this book, one reason Séverin formed his group was to take back magical artifacts that the European houses had collected from their various colonies. All the members of Séverin’s group are minorities, constantly dealing with feelings of being othered by those around them or not quite fitting in. On the other hand, there doesn’t appear to be any stigma against LGBTQ characters in this version of the world and the main cast has multiple queer people openly pursing romances.

CONCLUSION: If you’re a fan of adventures involving a group of people with highly specialized skills, this is definitely a book for you. The group isn’t a fully well-oiled machine this time out, suffering from the emotional ramifications of the end of book one, but they still have each other’s backs when things go sideways. I will make a final note that the villains here seemed a bit moustache-twirling and more a plot device than anything else, but your mileage may vary. The Silvered Serpents is an excellent and entertaining escape, and I look forward to the finale.


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