Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.
Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.
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It’s tough to write a book about overthrowing an already-established rule. That’s why so many fantasies, YA or otherwise, are released in trilogies or a series. For Of Silver and Shadow to successfully write a well-planned rebellion, with multiple parties involved and fleshed-out characterizations, in one book? That’s really impressive to me, and one of the reasons why this book and I just clicked. I don’t think the premise is anything special: random thief girl is a silver wielder in a kingdom where only royals can wield silver. Rich rebel leader persuades her to help their cause for money, and she goes begrudgingly because she needs that money for a hidden altruistic reason. On the other side, we have the POV’s of a trained soldier battling against her heart (with another female soldier) and her loyalty (to the crown), and a young prince that doesn’t know where he wants to go/what he wants to do in life. The background is tried and true, but the narratives that Gruenke writes are just plain GOOD. Honestly, the story could have been longer to flesh things out, but my love for stand-alones (assuming this is) made this the perfect length for me.
We start with the rebels.
“She never considered that she might be dragged into an idiotic revolution by a couple rebels. She wished she could kill both brothers, shove a knife into their necks and be done with it. Corpses couldn’t talk.”
The story starts with an offer for Ren to join the rebel group that Darek and his brother lead. She’s brash and unruly; he’s trying to start a movement but can’t without her. There’s a pretty dynamic hate-to-love romance between them as she gets embroiled into his plots and ends up helping much more than she signed up for. I actually really enjoyed the interactions in the rebel group and their camaraderie – they make for a motley yet persevering group. Ren herself has to really ask whether she wants to sacrifice her current lifestyle of thievery and pit-fighting to fight for a greater cause, which creates some good character development.
We move to the characters inside the palace.
“Tomorrow, she would wake up, and she would put on her leathers and be the soldier she was trained to be, and she’d do it again and again and again until she finally made it out of this place…”
Adley is a loyal soldier to the crown, known as the King’s Children. There are rules to being a King’s Child. You can’t be in a romantic relationship with each other. You basically carry out the torture and violence of the king. And you live for the crown. This was working fine for Adley, until she starts developing feelings (that are reciprocated) by Lesa, another soldier. This forbidden relationship (another trope I love) between them starts to unravel Adley’s loyalty to the king, leading to more inner conflicts within her character. I also thought her character was great, and the f/f romance was really wholesome and sweet, despite the heavy violence that the girls engage in.
Let’s move up some ranks in the palace.
“He had a tainted family name, a title that didn’t suit him, and a pit where fighters couted death. He’d been trying for so long, swapping personas and hoping one day something would fit him right. But nothing ever did.”
Last of the note-worthy POV’s to mention is the youngest prince Kellen, who doesn’t abide by the cruelties of his father and brother. But despite the small rebellion in his heart, he doesn’t really act out on it. After all, what can a younger prince do? Instead, he rebels by sneaking out of the castle to see the city, and engage with the citizens. One of the ways he does this is by being the owner of a pit-fighting ring. Although he’s lived a sheltered life, he knows there’s other things he can do. But what? The instigation of a rebellion might change his listlessness…
There’s a lot of moving parts and fast-paced action within this one book, but the scene transitions were seemless and I was equally invested in everyone’s stories. There’s not a character I love more because they’re all explored really well and given good page time. There’s also some pretty good dialogue among the characters that marks their unique personalities (Kellen’s playfulness, Adley’s solemnity, and Ren’s sarcasm being examples).
Like I said, I think the world-building is rather generic and the conflict predictable. But something about this story and the different (third person omniscient) POV’s just clicked for me. The pace, characters, and satisfyingly conclusive ending made this a really enjoyable read that I can find myself re-reading. I wouldn’t mind revisiting the characters and kindgom for another book, but this was perfect as it was. Recommended for YA fantasy fans (of course!) who aren’t looking for a unique magical world, but rather a tried and true tale of a revolt, and the characters that paved the way to change.
Thank you Flux and Netgalley for the review copy!