by A.R. Silverberry
Product Description (from Amazon.com):
Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world forever. She is certain that Naryfel, a shadowy figure from her past, has returned and is concentrating the full force of her hate on Jen’s family. But how will she strike? A knife in the dark? An attack from her legions? Or with the dark arts and twisted creatures she commands with sinister cunning? Wyndano’s Cloak may be Jen’s only hope. If she can only trust that she has what it takes to use it…
While I haven’t been part of the target demographic for YA for decades, I still read a lot of it, because it tends to have such wonderfully written female characters – strong, smart young women that are not found as frequently in contemporary adult fiction. When I find such a story that is also set in a rich fantasy world, I’m usually completely happy. That was the case with A.R. Silverberry’s Wyndano’s Cloak, which I not only read in a single night, but stayed up reading (by Kindle-light) in the dark into the wee hours – something I rarely get to do anymore.
What I liked about Silverberry’s world is that while it’s a fantasy setting, he didn’t make it too farfetched. Like some of my other favorite fantasy works, the people speak in contemporary (though not slangy) English, they drink coffee (actually he had me at coffee), etc. Yes, it’s clear the world in question is based on a Renaissance setting, and that the darker Plain World is a much gritter version of a similar period, but it was completely its own place as well, and in fantasy, that’s important because the world is a character in its own right.
Protagonist Jen, and the other young women in the story – Bit and Pet – were all great girls with unique personalities, and their own journeys. I liked that they could be strong, and bright in individual ways, and yet still retain girlhood. Not all active girls are true tomboys, after all, and not all fashionistas are insipid fools.
The male characters were also well-drawn. Jen’s father, Jen’s brother – both privileged men with distinct personalities – and Blue, the trickster, who reminded me a bit of Gavroche from Les Miserables was a winsome rogue.
Jen’s mother was more a presence than a real character in some respects, but her presence was felt, and Naryfel – what a great name! – was a perfect witch/hag character, but with complexity that made her more than a storybook villain.
While the plot of Wyndano’s Cloak was a combination of a Hero’s Quest and “How do we get back home,” Silverberry’s treatment of two standard fantasy themes was unique and compelling. I’d happily read more of his work, in this world, or in any others.
Goes well with: a latte and a chocolate croissant.