I came to The Silver Sickle with no particular expectations. The author Ellie Ann had asked if I would consider reviewing it and the synopsis sounded like it had potential. But in these scenarios you really never know what you’re going to get.
In this case what I got was a book that is well worth reading.
The Silver Sickle bills itself is steampunk and that’s true if you use the descriptors broadly. It could also be classified as science fantasy I think. It’s also billed as Young Adult, but that’s rather deceptive too. Mainly don’t get hung up on the genre label because this isn’t a book that will fit nicely into your label.
The driving force of the story is the relationship between Farissa and Zel. It is a love story in a sense but not really a romance as such. The reason their relationship drives the story is that they find themselves put in critical positions as a result of the things they do for each other.
When setting up an alien world, an author has to make some difficult decisions about how to get that information across to the reader. Ellie Ann picked the hardest, but ultimately most satisfying approach. Just throw the reader in at the deep end and give them what they need to figure it out.
That does require the reader to commit to actually concentrating for the first few chapters until all the references begin to build a picture, but once they do it’s so much more satisfying than being presented with twenty five pages of exposition.
And the world she builds is fascinating. Or at least the little segment of it that we see is, since really all we get to experience is the city of Dyn and it’s clear from the references that there are not only other countries out there, but other planets and creatures as well.
The alien goddesses do arguably have rather human emotions and motivations but their description is pretty unique and their behavior makes an internal sense.
Probably my favorite element though is the Cogsmen who I admit I picture rather differently than the none-the-less excellent cover. There’s another story to be told about how they came to be in Dynn I think.
Really my criticisms are small and niggly things. The switch between character view points was rather uneven due to the huge variation in chapter lengths. There was one segment where we switched characters 4 times in a matter of 4 or 5 pages and it didn’t feel necessary.
The thing about switching viewpoint is it’s a moment when the reader is liable to pull out of the story again. But if you can set up a rhythm early on and stick with it, they’re much less likely to do that.
I also felt like maybe the King’s behavior was just a little bit inconsistent. Now you could argue that’s because we are seeing him only from the outside we simply don’t see what causes certain actions. But that’s not an entirely satisfying answer.
As I said this is small stuff. If you’re looking for a refreshing blend of fantasy, science fiction and steampunk where the central characters are well drawn and the world is unique, check this one out.