Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Note: This review will contain spoilers for the prequel, The Gilded Wolves. It will not contain spoilers for The Silvered Serpents.
The Gilded Wolves was one of the most memorable books I read in 2019, it ended with a transfixing concoction of hurt and yearning that I knew I had to get my hands on Silvered Serpent as soon as humanly possible. In the past, Roshani Chokshi has enchanted readers with her beautiful prose and vivid imagined worlds. Once we are captivated, she now lead us like lamb to the slaughter – through the myriad discordant notes of angst, loneliness, and pain which teem through the pages of Silvered Serpents. As someone who revel in suffering alongside with my favourite fictional characters, this sequel is everything I could have hoped for.
As a series often – in my opinion, unjustly – compared to Six of Crows, Silvered Serpent charts a course for these characters that will once and for all sever any semblance of likeness with Kaz & co. I dare say this: Silvered Serpent is the superior sequel in contrast to Crooked Kingdom, especially when it comes to emotional stakes and satisfaction. Chokshi implicitly understand that death is not the worst fate for a beloved character, the thorough examinations of how each individual character privately grieved is a testament to this. The ripple of effect that Tristan death had on the crew, and their interrogation each other’s response, was conveyed with heart aching honesty that at times made for a difficult read.
Beyond the death of Tristan, each of the character has the grapple with their own demon in this novel. Severin’s brooding takes on a sinister edge with this novel as his desperation for a Faustian bargain become more urgent, his brother’s death serving as the catalyst for his self-destructive path. His chapters take us to some dark places, as he goes to length to justify the dubious means to his end. Laila is haunted by the shadows of death, both Tristan’s tragic end and her ever looming destiny. Her struggle to reconcile with the idea of humanity is beautifully contrasted with her narrative which radiate with compassion and a fervor for life. Zofia examines the meaning of family in between her relationship with her sister, and the changing dynamic within the group in the wake of Tristan’s death. Her clear-eyed and earnest chapters continue to be some of my favourite, and I love to see the continued representation of an autistic character in fantasy. Last but not least, Enrique, the group’s historian, battle with impostor syndrome as he pursues his path of academia and knowledge in a world where the white perspective is favoured.
Severin and Laila’s dynamic relationship is one of the cornerstone bond of this series. In Gilded Wolves, they ended on a bitter note which hinted at future love-to-hate, fake dating, and a world of angst. Let me tell you that Silvered Serpent delivered all of this and more. The tortuous dance between these two and the masks they have on to disguise their affection for one reason or another? Entirely destroyed me by the end of this book. There’s yearning, there’s unresolved tension, unsaid words and lingering resentment – just all of the spice that I crave in a love-to-hate yet so rarely delivered. This book is so exemplary of that love to enemies cycle that we all love to read about. Also, I went into this thinking that the series is a duology, thinking that my pain will be resolved by the end of the novel. All I have to say that I was deeply mistaken.
Beyond the in-depth examination into the characters, I also loved the mystery and historical crossover element to the plot. While Gilded Wolves took place in the lights and glamour of 1889 Paris, we are transported to the icy majesty of turn-of-century Russia in Silvered Serpent. As usual, Chokshi excel in portraying the visuals of her setting, complete with the atmospheric specter of lost girls that follow through this narrative from the Prologue. This series does not concern itself with heist and trickery alone, it also interrogates all the nooks and crannies that history like to overlook. It lends a voice to the people of colour, the forgotten girls, the people that history would rather the world forgets.
I cannot wait to read the next book in this series and have my heart wrecked all over again. Promise me the third is the final installment? My heart can’t take much more of this.