Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.
When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.
Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.
Dylan Farrow’s Hush is a book with a really unique storyline. The main idea of the narrative is that if people speak certain words or talk about certain things it will bring a plague on that person and those around them. It is a really intriguing premise, though, in my opinion it could have used more elaboration.
I really loved this book for the first half. The story is told from Shae’s perspective, and she is a wonderful protagonist. Shae is curious and strong, and she has been through so much with this plague affecting her family and friends that her every action is rife with emotion. She is really well-developed and easy to connect with, which definitely makes her the highlight of the book. The other prominent characters in the book are the Bards. They are magic users who travel around to different villages collecting tithes, which are like taxes, in the form of harvesting food and livestock. If they are pleased with the tithe provided by the village, they can use their magic to make something good happen (for instance – Shae is always hoping they will bring rain because her village is going through a drought). If the Bards are unhappy, they do nothing for the village or even bring a grievous action. The Bards are all powerful and can punish (and even execute) people if they wish.
The Bards’ visit to Shae’s village is really the crux of the narrative. It is a tension-filled inflection point where the pressure builds in the story and is the catalyst for the rest of the book. Shae takes certain actions that have a dire effect on her, her family, and the village. This is really well-done and sets up the rest of the story nicely.
This is where things go off the track for me, though. The second half of the book is SUPER chaotic. Chaos can be good in a controlled environment with a well-constructed connection. Hush does not have that. The second half of the book felt rushed to me, and there were many actions and events that felt random and did not contribute to the overall story. There is also not much character development aside from Shae. In my opinion, this book could have used a little bit more around the margins: narrative connection, character development, world building etc. This did not completely degrade all the good created in the first part of the story, but it did leave me scratching my head and wondering what could have been.
All in all, Hush is a good book with a unique, intriguing storyline. While I did feel it could use more overall elaboration, it was still a good book overall. I am hesitant to give it a blanket recommendation due to the issues in the latter half of the book, but I am also hesitant not to recommend it at all given the elements in the book that make it worth reading. Here is where I land: I do think it is worth checking out if you like the premise. You might find the story more satisfying than I did.