Review: The Silk Palace by Colin Harvey
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The Silk Palace
by Colin Harvey
Swimming Kangaroo Books, 2007
390 pages, ISBN 1934041424
Ancient gods, cultish murders, royal intrigue, and sapphic love--The Silk Palace has it all. The two younger daughters of the king of Whiterock are to be married to neighboring kingdoms: one to Prince Casimiripian (Cas) of the Karnaki Empire, and one to an Emir of the Western Alliance. Cas has under his care the linguist Bluestocking, who has been invited to Whiterock to study and translate some ancient scrolls whose meanings have been lost through both intentional and temporal obfusaction.
Bluestocking has a dirty secret that's slipped to us early on, which adds a measure of fear to her day to day existence and gives others a few extra hooks to dig into her as she finds herself more and more wrapped in conflicting threads. We're shown, towards the beginning, what would happen to Bluestocking if she were caught out--public maiming and dismemberment; followed by a slow, lingering death. And by the end, the truth _is_ made known.
Sadly, I found The Silk Palace very hard to get into--it was as if a great expository chunk had been chopped from the beginning and flung back into the flow of things without proper adjustment for what a fresh reader would understand. The characters' familiarities with each other (and lack thereof) were difficult to understand from how they acted until we were given relevant flashbacks/memories.
The writing was competent, for the most part, though I felt it over-told some things, re-told some things too often, and fell into cliche occasionally. For all the wandering about, I never really felt an understanding of the city or the people in it--or the context of it all, including armies laying siege. And while it's traditional for everything to fall on the shoulders of one character, I found there to be too many threads that disappeared as soon as they weren't being looked at--for the scope of the piece, I felt the world was under-represented.
And while the "ancient evil" storyline is given a reasonably complex context, it still felt somewhat generic in execution; the characters tell us a fair bit about themselves, but emote no real depth. Any differentiation from stereotypes was largely due to plot, rather than the plot feeling driven by character.
Still, if "ancient gods, cultish murders, royal intrigue, and sapphic love" pull you in, you'll probably appreciate the book.
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