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Silence (Queen of the Dead) Hardcover – May 1, 2012
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Praise for Michelle Sagara’s Queen of the Dead series:
“It's rare to find a book as smart and sweet as this one.”
—Sarah Rees Brennan, author of The Demon's Lexicon
“In Touch, Sagara paints an eerie and original picture of the afterlife.... Beautifully written, with characters so real—even the dead ones—they could be any of us, Touch is an exceptional addition to a powerful series. Don’t miss this.”
—Julie Czerneda, author of A Turn of Light
"Brilliant storyteller Sagara heads in a new direction with her Queen of the Dead series. She does an excellent job of breathing life into not only her reluctant heroine, but also the supporting players in this dramatic and spellbinding series starter. There is a haunting beauty to this story of love, loss, and a teenager’s determination to do the right thing. Do not miss out!"
—RT Reviews (top pick!)
“For all that this is a novel deeply concerned with loyalty, with healthy friendships, and with human decency, it doesn’t hesitate to wrap cold fingers around your spine and yank when the moment calls for it. Sagara’s characters are believable, flawed, and very human, and make for compelling reading.” —Tor.com
About the Author
Michelle Sagara has published numerous short stories and fantasy novels, including the successful Cast (The Chronicles of Elantra) novels and her Queen of the Dead series. She lives in Toronto with her husband and her two sons. She started working in bookstores at the age of sixteen, and never stopped, although she also held full-time summer jobs at IBM. She reads, reviews the occasional book for the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and works at a bookstore, part-time. She can contacted via her website, michellesagara.com.
Top customer reviews
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Literary merit: five stars
English: very good.
Emma's core group of friends at high school are charming and interesting because they've managed to span social groups from a combination of circumstance and good will. Emma has a fateful encounter and inherits supernatural powers she knows nothing about. The adventure begins and new people met.
I was entertained with my whole heart and mind, but there are two things that might annoy other readers. Firstly, Sagara is great at building a coherent 'magic system' or 'spiritual/psychological process' by having her hero have to puzzle out how to do complex magic entirely from scratch - right in the middle of a fight!
I enjoy this thinking process because I see it as part of the heart of the story, but others may feel it interrupts action. Secondly, the teenagers talk normally, but some of the adults and some of the narration lapses into a very formal, reflective style of language. Most YA authors strip their English down to a more simple form that would slightly shorten the book. Not everyone will love Sagara's style. I do because it adds flavour and depth.
Finally, there is what I consider to be some profound philosophy/literature themes slipped into the story, in short form as befits a YA novel. Sagara states simply through Emma that every person thinks they have good justification for what they do: it is only from the outside that their actions look ugly or evil.
It took me a philosophy bachelor and 40 years of living for me to come to the same conclusion about why people do bad things and why the world is like it is.
And interwoven into the story is a bittersweet, beautiful, narrative about loss and grieving in the aftermath of the death of loved ones. Please please don't let that subject matter put you off. This is a magical fantasy that both atheists and religious people
can enjoy with whole hearts. There are two more books to deliver us a happy ending.
There is not a lot of action or romance in this one but plenty of prospects for a number of relationships to develop in the next book.
So, overall slow going at the beginning but quite fast and tear-jerkerish towards the end. Lots of ghosts and a very different slant of the dead. Worth reading to the end to get your money's worth in this one.
The first half of the book is all about the mysteries and discoveries as Emma works through becoming a necromancer and some of the odd problems it brings. The second half of the book actually narrows the plot down to only a few specific problems to solve rather than continuing to pile on the complications. The main quest, if you can call it that, is that Emma and her friends (who all believe her) are working to save a dead child from a once-burning house.
The strengths of the book are the solid cast, the believable dialog, and Sagara's sense of self-control in not spreading the plot wider than a YA book can reach in one sitting.The straightforward plot made the book lighter to read, and all the more memorable because I wasn't wading through layers of unnecessary twists and turns. Sagara's smooth flow and constant context made the book accessible to a younger audience, and I know some just-13-year olds who enjoyed it too.
There is one wrinkle to the book that I want to call out separately from Sagara's storytelling skills. In the core group of Emma's friends is Michael, a high-functioning autistic boy. He is different, yes. But so is Amy the rich-and-beautiful, and so is Allison the totally-not-Amy. Michael contributes to the story with his strengths and weaknesses just like any other supporting character. I think this expansion of the usual high school cast is both useful and engaging, and adds more depth to the dialog as well as more challenge to the social juggling act that is every high school party.
I picked up this book because it was recommended by Seanan McGuire, and because it was written by the same author as my favorite Cast in Courtlight. I recommend this to the people who know what real friendship is like, who love their parents dearly, and who can embrace death and reject it in the same breath.
(This review was first published in Geek Speak Magazine's May 2012 edition.)