Today I am reviewing ‘The Story of Silence’ by Alex Meyers, whose cover and premise intrigued me from the start.
*Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
There was once, long ago, a foolish king who decreed that women should not, and would not, inherit. Thus when a girl-child was born to Lord Cador – Merlin-enchanted fighter of dragons and Earl of Cornwall – he secreted her away: to be raised a boy so that the family land and honour would remain intact.
That child’s name was Silence.
Silence must find their own place in a medieval world that is determined to place the many restrictions of gender and class upon them. With dreams of knighthood and a lonely heart to answer, Silence sets out to define themselves.
Soon their silence will be ended.
From the beginning, I fell in love with the prose in this book. It is beautifully lyrical and pulls you into it as though you’re sat around a fire listening to bard telling you a story, the words flowing around you, and it fits the story perfectly. This is a slower story, so not for someone looking for lots of action and relentless pacing, but it is well-paced, the story moving with the journey, and I very much enjoyed the slower approach. And although there were places where it felt a little too meandering, it was always worth it in the end.
To some extent, this book felt more like historical fiction with a dash of whimsy and magic, but it works well, and it provides an interesting discussion of several aspects including gender, nature vs nurture, and finding your own identity, without being too heavy-handed in its exploration. The world-building itself was relatively limited, although what we are given about the main setting of Cornwall was as with everything beautifully written, but the world wasn’t central to the story – Silence was.
In fact, beyond the prose, I would say that the protagonist and namesake for the book – Silence – was the main strength of this book. In part, this is because the secondary characters didn’t have much development beyond what was necessary, although in a way I liked that because it kept the lens on Silence who was a fascinating, compelling character from start to finish. I rarely read books where the main characters can be described as ‘nice’ in the genuine sense, but Silence is one of those people, and you can’t help but come to care for them, their dreams and journey, and more importantly their struggle with their gender identity.
A warning perhaps, that the representation of women will not appeal to everyone, although it is in keeping with the type and period of the story – with little room for variation between women of high virtue, and those of low virtue meant to test the Knights. However, despite this, there was care taken with their portrayal, and the nuance of their roles and aspirations were woven into the story. So while at odds with what we expect today, I felt that it was an interesting exploration, especially with how it impacted on Silence’s struggles, growth and relationship with gender.
This is very much a story of self-discovery and empowerment through that. As a non-binary person, I appreciated the exploration and portrayals in this book, it was nuanced and thought-provoking, although it may not be the same for everyone. However, I would highly recommend this beautifully written book, particularly if you love lyrical prose and a slower-paced tale.
The Story of Silence – Alex Meyers (Published by Harpervoyager 9th July 2020) – **** (4/5 Stars)
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.