Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dreamdark: Silksinger

I read Laini Taylor's Blackbringer just about two years ago, when my wonderful Penguin rep gave me an ARC and insisted that I'd love it. She was right. I loved Magpie, Taylor's fierce and determined main character, and I loved Talon, the faery prince who can't fly but can knit. I loved Magpie's crow brothers and I loved the central premise of the novel, that humans, a more recent evolutionary development than faeries, were inadvertently releasing demons into the world, and that the faeries--along with their crow friends--had to stop it.

I no longer have that wonderful Penguin rep, but Penguin has not forgotten me. (In fact I recently discovered that the Tim Travaglini, senior editor at Putnam in the Penguin Young Readers Group, is a UR graduate--though he graduated the May before I started there.) So I was delighted to open up a package recently with the new paperback of Blackbringer, and the ARC of Silksinger, the next book in the Dreamdark series (due out in September).

It does not disappoint. (Side note: check out Neil Gaiman on entitlement today, and on what series devotees say about them. He's so right, as always.) I reread Blackbringer before starting Silksinger--I wanted to reimmerse myself in the world of Dreamdark, and it had, after all, been two years. I found myself right back in the world Taylor has created--sometimes it can take me a while to enter an alternate world, but Taylor has a knack for making her landscape legible, her characters real, her concerns vital. I care about Dreamdark because it is our world, after all. We are a small part of its concerns, and for the most part a difficult one, but --well, we invented chocolate, so we're not all bad.

Silksinger picks up where Blackbringer left off, with another djinn to recover and another evil to do battle with. It adds new characters--Whisper, the Silksinger of the title, and Hirik, the would-be champion of the lost djinn Azazel--and reuinites us with the old ones as well. The gifts her characters have are ingenious--Taylor weaves magic out of everyday activities like knitting and singing, and even manages to make insects a vital and necessary part of the interconnected world.

Reading Dreamdark, I feel almost as if I did while first reading the Lord of the Rings series--I love this world. When we were kids, my best friend and I inhabited Middle Earth, acting out the journeys of Frodo and Merry and Pippin, imagining ourselves engaged in the endless battle to save Middle Earth. I can imagine kids like me doing that with Dreamdark--with the significant difference that they won't have to cross-dress to do so. Whisper and Magpie, Hirik and Talon, offer up all their skills and talents to their interlocking quests--boys and girls are equally valued, equally needed, in this brave new world. The quests are real, meaningful, and dangerous. The new villain is particularly pernicious, and attractive (it's always a problem when the bad guy is just bad--you wonder why anyone would join up!--not so with this one). The stakes are high, and the solutions ingenious.

My son Nick took over the Dreamdark books before I got to them this time around. He's already decided to wear the tattoos on the last day of school (they are pretty awesome), and he eagerly awaits the next volume. So do I.*

*but we don't feel entitled; I know Laini Taylor has something else growing right now as well as her books.


  1. So this is a good-enough guy book? So many of the recent fairy-type books (Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Melissa Marr) are kind of girl-oriented.

  2. Jeanne, my 11 yo son loved it. While the main character is a girl, she's fierce--and there are very important boys as well, who often carry the narrative. So I think it's really good for both boys and girls.