Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fur flying everywhere.

I'll preface this by stating I wasn't sure how much I'd like The Silvered by Tanya Huff. I love her other books, but I loathe werewolves. Thankfully, my love won out and I really enjoyed reading about Mirian Maylin taking on prophecy and becoming part of a duo out to overthrow an Empire.

The book opens on said empire's invasion of Aydori borders by Captain Reiter and his rag tag band of Imperial shields are sent by a prophecy to retrieve 6 pregnant mages from far off Aydori. In the meantime, Mirian Maylin has been told not to return to University, having not mastered more than the first level in any of the 5 magical disciplines. Not that that's stopping her mother from trying to set her up with any member of the pack, the werewolves that act as protectors of Aydori. Because were Mirian to become Mage-Pack, that would increase her mother's societal standing and hopefully get the Pack to start banking with Mirian's father. Which leads to a scene at the Opera, where the Mage-Pack (women) mated with the Pack (men) try very hard to keep people calm in the beginning of the invasion, telling folks to wait until morning to begin pulling further withing Aydori borders to the more defensible capital. Mirian also catches the nose of one of the unmated Pack, who tells her she smells amazing. (Pretty much any Pack we meet throughout the book says this or something similar. Given most of those saying it are barely out of adolescence, I assume her amazing mage powers smell like pizza.)

Anyway, Mirian sees Captain Reiter capture 5 of the most powerful members of the Mage-pack and takes it upon herself to go report the taking of the mates to the Pack fighting on the front lines. Whereupon she gets captured by Captain Reiter, who thinks her to be the 6th Mage. Lord Tomas Hagan, nephew of the Pack Alpha (who just died to Imperial weaponry) finds and rescues her, leading to a rather hurried race against both Captain Reiter (trying to re-capture her) and whatever fate will befall the 5 Mage-pack members once they reach the Capital of the Empire.

Which we as readers get to see in rather graphic detail. See, The Emperor has declared both Mages and Pack to be abominations, less than human, and expendable. Thus why Pack pelts are worth money in the Empire. His grand plan involves mating the beasts with the other beasts to get Mages he alone controls. (The Empire is a very science heavy realm, where magic is dying out. Even though most of the decisions the Emperor makes is based on Soothsaying.)

It's actually quite brutal in places. And the gay subtext in this is hard to miss, particularly since Ms. Huff is married to a woman. One of the biggest themes here is the idea that by declaring someone as less than human, it's a lot easier to torture them and kill them, because they're nothing but an animal. And again, Ms. Huff has no problem portraying gay male relationships in her fictions. We meet a were in the Empire who's paired with a soothsayer who end up taking Tomas and Mirian in about 2/3rds of the way through the narrative. They, along with the mental ghost of Mirian's mother as well as heroines of books Mirian read provide a little levity to the story. (Seriously. The mother's instructions on how to be a proper lady crop up at inopportune times during the chase.)

Another bit of subtext falls under the idea that the more society advances and become more civilized, the less room we have for magic and wonder in that society. Which has its good and bad sides.

Really though, I ended up liking the book. While it's not listed as series fiction, I wouldn't complain if she returns to this world for another story or two.