Dreamdark: Book 2
by Laini Taylor
Magpie Windwitch may have defeated the Blackbringer and convinced the Djinn King to return, but there's still plenty of work to do. Accompanied by faerie Talon Rathersting, her "brothers" the crows, and Batch the scavenger imp, 'Pie is on a quest to find the rest of the Djinn. Meanwhile, young Whisper Silksinger, the last of her clan, is traveling across the land with one of those Djinn, the Azazel, in a teapot. Pursued by devils and scorned by everyone she meets, Whisper is yet determined to get the Azazel to Nazneen and restore him to his throne. Another faerie also travels to Nazneen in disguise, determined to restore his clan's honor and become the Azazel's champion. But unknown to all of them, a darker force is also seeking the Djinn for his own purposes. If he succeeds, the world may be in peril.
Silksinger alternates between several stories and several main characters, one of whom is Magpie. I'm not a fan of books that alternate stories in this way, because for me it makes the read very disjointed; every time I get involved with one character, I find it disconcerting to have to switch perspective and adjust to a different point of view. But the story is exciting enough to keep you involved, with the action starting by page 3, and the new characters are interesting and unique.
Silksinger is a darker book than Blackbringer. That may seem unlikely, since the first book was about a hungry darkness that swallowed everything in its path, but as frightening as it was, the Blackbringer was really just immense hunger and anger, both understandable emotions. This book has cruelty, real cruelty, and that's so much more horrifying than a hungry darkness. The villain in this book is fairly cliché, but it doesn't really matter, because the real villain is the darker sides of our own nature: hatred and suspicion and cowardice and greed.
But standing against this darkness and cruelty is courage and compassion, often in the face of overwhelming odds. It's easy to accept Magpie's courage; she's such a bold and willful character and courage comes naturally to her. But some of the greatest displays of courage in this book come from some of the most unlikely characters, such as Whisper herself, who is a scamperer, a faerie who can't fly, and in many ways appears to be little more than a frightened child. Yet hidden inside this tiny, seemingly helpless faerie lies an unexpected strength and courage. And several other unlikely characters show great courage in ways I can't describe without spoiling some of the authorial surprises. This fits in with one of the themes of the book, which deals with how our preconceptions and assumptions about other people can sometimes blind us to the truth.
I was glad to see the return of Batch Hangnail, the scavenger imp. In spite of his rude, selfish, untrustworthy nature, I can't help but like him. I was a little disappointed at how some things turned out with him, but again, I can't say more without spoiling the book. I also was a little disturbed that at one point Magpie was essentially keeping him prisoner. No matter how miserable his behavior, I don't think that he deserved that, and it seemed beneath Magpie to behave in such a selfish, uncompassionate way.
The main plot of Silksinger is wrapped up by the end of the book, but some plot threads are left unresolved for future books.
As with the first book, Silksinger is greatly enhanced by the beautiful drawings created by Jim DiBartolo, Laini's husband. The illustrations bring the characters to life and add a lot to the book.
Silksinger will be published on September 17.