Monday, January 20, 2014

A Review of Seth Hammons’s The Silent Sound [Book Two of The Keys]

In September of 2012 I wrote a very positive review of the independently published debut novel in this series, Unheard Of. The sequel does not disappoint.
            Picking up where the first book left off, The Silent Sound finds the three main characters—Arco, Chastin, and Rachel—setting out to sea with two brothers named Zeke and Zender, a mysterious and doom-prone old fisherman, and a tough as nails female captain in the Imperial Navy after the islands are attacked by a sea-dwelling race of beings known as the demar.
            There is plenty of action and conflict among the ship’s disparate group of passengers, complicated by a pair of thought-talking music sticks named Maletalio—the unifying force among the three main characters and the holder of many of the secrets of the Keys.
            In the tried and true tradition of a fantasy series, Hammons extends his themes and his world in The Silent Sound, although the central conflict is still between the Imperial Iori, with their formal schooling, strong military, and reliance on Science and the workaday Brecks, a more pagan, peaceful class of farmers and artisans.
            Not only do we visit new places, like the difficult-to-navigate sea channel called Typhon’s Fangs and the once-center of music in the Breckish lands, Coda Misung, but we gain new insights into the history and motivations of Arco (the sailor-turned-drunk-turned hero).
            I also enjoyed the level of intrigue and magic in The Silent Sound. Hammons provides just enough to keep us engaged without resorting to gimmicks. Even more so than in the first book, these elements should hold great appeal for lovers of J. R. R. Tolkien and George R. R. Martin.
            Hammons writes a tightly constructed, efficient narrative with an insistent pace and the syntax and rhythms of his dialogue gives a strong sense of the different cultures from which his characters come. It is clear from his descriptions that he knows this world well.
            Similar to the first book, there are well-executed “reveals” and plot turns and the ending makes the reader anxious to read the next book(s) in the series.           
As I did with Unheard Of, I heartily recommend The Silent Sound to readers in their early teens to adults. The beautifully rendered maps by Zeyan Zhang (who also did the cover) and a Glossary make it easy to keep track of the detailed world Hammons presents us with, and present opportunities for reading clubs to engage with the books and the timely, relevant social, economic, and politic questions they explore.


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