Review: The Story of Silence By Alex Myers

Rating: 9/10

Synopsis

A knightly fairy tale of royalty and dragons, of midwives with secrets and dashing strangers in dark inns. Taking the original French legend as his starting point, The Story of Silence is a rich, multilayered new story for today’s world – sure to delight fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale.

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.

Review

A warm, lyrical tale of acceptance; of finding your own place in the world no matter where along the gender spectrum you fit, whether that moves based on Nurture. And the fight against Nature – which can be hidden, and which doesn’t define you. This is a retelling of an old medieval poem Le Roman de Silence, and perhaps also posits that ‘way back then’ was a time before the very idea of gender binaries. I cannot say whether the representation here was good, as I’m not non-binary, but the central storyline of Silence’s struggle with their gender identity was highly intriguing, and thought-provoking.

To summarise, the story is about Silence, who was born a girl, but would be raised as a boy (to protect her father-Earl’s claim to Cornwall, as the King decreed that women could not inherit land, and would therefore fall back into his hands should a female heir be born). They dream to become a knight, are raised in the woods away from court, and runaway to follow this dream. Along the way, they become a minstrel and find somewhere to belong, for a while. This tale is intertwined in Arthurian legend, and Merlin is a central point to the plot. There are great battles, heart-warming relationships, heart-rending scenes and, as a whole, the book is fun and deftly written. I can say that this was one book that I couldn’t put down for Heldis’ telling of the tale was so darn captivating.

Told from the point of view of a bard, who has been told the story by Silence, the book’s voice full of character, and artistic flair. Silence is a character that I would follow to the ends of the earth, for there is no greater example of knightly virtues than them. Though, there are a few aspects of the book that one might find hard to read; the portrayal of women in this piece is very poor, and upon research I’ve found that this is an aspect of taken from the original source material which is prevalent in chivalric poems: women sat on either an extreme of chaste and virtue or were cunning, and wicked, set to test the knights’ own values.

The saving grace, Myers presents this all from a point of research, and while this book is certainly writhe with difficult topics, from my limited point of view, it is handled well and leads to positive introspection.

Main themes aside, this is an adventure, of someone following their dreams and finding much more; the battles scenes are clustered, desperate and so immersive that you see the arrows flying towards you as you dig the spurs into your horse, falling into the mud and scrambling out. In the taverns, you can hear the beer sloshing and the bard playing.

Please, pick up Silence’s story, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Thanks to Harper Collins for the copy, when I requested one, I didn’t quite realise how great it would be.

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