Dreamdark: Silksing by Laini Taylor
I was so excited when I open the package with this ARC inside. It was made all the better because I wasn't expecting it. A friend who reviews for an industry magazine as well as reads for various committees of ALA got a copy of the trade paper of Dreamdark: Blackbringer and the ARC of Silksinger. She never mentioned it, but passed them on to me because she remembered I was such a fan of the first book.
There was a tiny part of me that was worried about the second book. So many fantasy series have great first books, but the second book falls flat or is used to simply set up the grad ending in the third book of a trilogy. Taylor didn't fall into that trap! Silksinger is just as rich and detailed as Blackbringer, maybe more so. Her skill at world-building is astounding. Maybe it's because she's also a visual artist, but the world she created for Faeries of Dreamdark (or as the publisher seems to be calling the series now Dreamdark) feels like a place you could visit.
The characters don't play second fiddle to the world though. Taylor's characters, both 'good' and 'bad', feel real. They are multifaceted and unlike many books which jump viewpoints, the Dreamdark books don't feel choppy. Getting a peek inside the different characters' heads makes them more real and more sympathetic. This is a young adult book and I really felt that the characters, who are mostly the faerie equal to teens/twenties, acted and reacted in ways that teens will relate to and understand. I loved the fact that though the big bad guy is undeniably bad (and I'm consciously using the word bad and not evil), he does have an element of sympathy and motivation beyond just 'I was power' or 'I want money'.
Earlier I mentioned that Taylor didn't use Silksing to just set up the next book in her series, Silksinger is a full and complete story. It might be a bit difficult to just pick it up and read if you have not read Blackbringer, but it wouldn't be impossible. Silksinger picks up where Blackbringer left off for Magpie and her friends, but it also starts the story of Hirik and Whisper. Like Blackbringer, the stories pick up in progress so if you like a slow building and lots of explanation, these aren't the books for you. That being said, there was never a time I really felt that I didn't know what was going on. Taylor has a knack for explaining the history and other background of the world within the action of the story or the dialog of the characters. So most of the time there is no need for lengthy passages which explain how magic works in this world or why one clan hates another. There are a few times where this does happen, but they don't distract from the story.
I've heard critics of fantasy (of all genre's really) say that current authors depend on cliched archetypes and that nothing reads as original any more. I'd love to give them the Blackbringer books. Taylor does use fantasy archetypes. There is the quest to save the world, the poor orphan alone in the world, the young man out to regain family honor, and others. You know what, that's OK! For each of those elements, they are twists that make them fresh and new to these stories. The orphan for instance, doesn't start the book that way. The readers get to see her lose the last few members of her family and that draws them into her pain and confusion.
Though I've said Silksing is a full and complete story on it's own, it does also set up further books in the Dreamdark series. I'll be eagerly waiting to read the further adventures of Magpie, Talon and their crow family. I'm still hoping for a chance to meet Magpie's family. So it was said about Blackbringer that if you read one fantasy that year, make that the one. I'd second that for Silksinger. If you read one fantasy....if you even read one sequel, make it Silksinger and you won't be sorry!