Silver on the Road – Book Review
Confession, I have been a little lax in my posts. Well, here is a review of a book I read a little while back. The review was written at that time too.
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That said, I still managed to find time to read a book (or two). Unfortunately, I have not had the good fortune to read anything amazingly good. And much like my last book review, this one was a bit of a long awaited disappointment.
I found Silver on the Road by chance while pursuing the online bookstore. Fortunately, my home library had a copy. Unfortunately, I had to wait over two weeks upon my return to borrow the book. The fact that it was out, should have meant it was a good read, right? Well, Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman was not terrible, but it was not terribly good either. Just to get it out of the way, I would give Silver on the Road the same rating as Uprooted – a solid 7 out of 10.
Let us start with the positives. Because there were things about this book that I really liked. I liked the Wild West feel of the world. I liked the respect shown the Natives of North America. This was carried through to the magic system, known as Medicine in the Territory. I liked the way the Devil was not mustache twirling in the least. I liked the way the relationship grew between the two main characters into something warm and friendly and not the least romantic. Now I am sure some could read it that way, but considering their age difference, it could just as easily be read as familiar instead. Indeed there were several good things about this book.
Sadly it was weak in the actual writing department. Well, it was either poorly written or I am a complete idiot. It felt like the story arc of the novel was a long time coming. What was only supposed to be a few weeks on the road, felt like months from my perspective. I had a nagging feeling like I was missing something, which became shear irritation when I realized the author just didn’t say anything.
And then of course there was the ending. Once more it seemed as though the author reached their word count and suddenly realized something needed to happen in order to complete the story. Out of nowhere we have evil Spanish Monk-Magicians sending a curse to wipe out the Territory and then conveniently chasing after that curse to reverse it (well, a different subsection of Monk-Magicians, if I understand properly). It was a good thing this religious men bothered to sully their feet by entering the Devil’s Lands, otherwise, our main characters would never learn what was happening and have a chance to stop it.
The action beats leading up to this inexplicable climax were muddy and confusing. The defeating of the curse was even more muddy and incomplete. The female protagonist recognizes the curse has split into many pieces and the one piece she is currently facing has adapted to its current environment, so she tells it the rules and walks away. I am guessing it is more like a stray puppy that just needed a good scolding and reminder that it is not allowed to eat people. Then with a pat on the head the puppy is left to its own devices, while our heroes walk off – possibly to find and scold more curse-pieces. It was not a strong conclusion.
And before anyone starts in with the argument this was a character driven story, not a plot driven one, I will say yes, I realize that. I also realize that all the revelations the character makes are kept from the reader. For example:
“Understanding filled her, a comprehension so intense that she couldn’t remember not having it a heartbeat before. That was why she had to try to stop Farron, why –
The creature didn’t care whatever revelation she was having.” – page 268; Silver on the Road, 2015
It literally then goes into a fight scene and a poorly described one at that. There are many such instances of characters evolving or things happening that are not revealed to the reader. This is such a cheap and frustrating way to drag out an already plodding story. I was sincerely unimpressed.
As much as I love books with no action (Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourites!), this was a dragged out telling of an imprecise narrative. It was successful in showing how dull and repetitive life on the open road was. It was not successful in building a complete world with interesting and fully developed characters. Yet for all its faults, I have read worse, so I will defend my overall rank of 7/10.