So the trend in YA these days definitely seems to be towards trilogies. And, here’s a confession, trilogies are kind of my least favorite thing. So often it feels like the author is just draaaagggging things out so she can make a buck by putting one story’s worth of story in three books. Then there’s the opposite – by the end of the trilogy, there is such a rich, amazing world-build that it seems tragic to end after only three books. (Patricia C. Wrede’s Frontier Magic books immediately leap to mind. I could read a dozen books set in that world.)
And now we come to Silver in the Blood. And I got done reading this book and was like… why isn’t this a trilogy?! So ironic. But while I really enjoyed this book, at times it felt like George was jamming a lot of story into one book. Even a duology would have been nice to allow for some more character development/world building, but instead it frequently felt like the story was hurrying along, which was a shame because the setting is incredibly rich.
It was funny also because I read this on the heels of the Cecelia & Kate books, which were books set in an AU world where magic is real and was about a pair of cousins who had grown up together and were very close and had to write letters to each other… and Silver in the Blood is about a pair of cousins who have grown up together and are very close and have to write letters and are about to discover that magic is quite real. (It was extra weird just because one of the aunts is Aunt Kate!)
Dacia and Lou have grown up in New York City (in the late 19th century), but our story opens with both of them traveling to visit their family in Romania. Through a series of circumstances, Dacia is traveling with their Aunt Kate, while Lou is with her parents and brothers along a different route. The book is told in a mixture of third-person narrative and letters/diary entries from the girls. I really liked the format (although it never feels necessary to me to use different fonts for different people), and felt like it was a good way to give different perspectives and move the story along.
Things really get interesting when Dacia first meets the matriarch of the family. Lady Ioana is super creepy. Up until this point, you can tell that Dacia has been trying to sweep things under the rug as far as “things feel a little weird meeting the ol’ fam,” but Lady Ioana is over-the-top weird, and things get more bizarre from there.
As the reader, it felt like Dacia and Lou were a little slow to see where things were going. I’m not sure if that’s because they really were a little slow to see where things were going, or (more likely) George was just trying to emphasize how far out of the realm of possibility the concept of shape-shifters would be for two properly brought up Young Ladies of Quality. But because of that, there were times that the story dragged a bit.
When the big reveal happens, I was frustrated by the sudden complete character swap of Dacia and Lou. Dacia has always been the headstrong, adventurous one, while Lou was the reserved, quiet one. But once they realize what is happening with their family, all of a sudden they do a complete role-change. In some ways, I see what George was trying to accomplish with this, but it also felt kind of unnatural, especially Lou going from 0 to 100mph as far as bossing people around, taking charge, and making major decisions alone. I could understand Dacia’s horror and fear leading her to be withdrawn and confused for a time, but Lou’s personality shift seemed abrupt and strange to me.
We spend a lot of time building up to a big finale, and then things seemed rushed at the end, which is part of why it felt like this should have been two or three books. There was a lot of world/character building (which was wasted since the girls completely changed personalities halfway through the story, ah well), and then the action was all smashed into the last few chapters. While I found the ending mildly satisfying, there still seemed like some loose ends that needed tied up – it was a little too, “Oh yay everything is great now, let’s go on our merry way!” to really feel like a solid conclusion.
In the end, a 3/5 read for me, and recommended for people who enjoy the genre, but there are definitely better ways to jump into YA fantasy if you are just looking for a place to start.