Review: The Silk Palace by Colin Harvey

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Silk Palace by Colin Harvey o (cover)

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.

- reddit, digg, facebook, stumbleupon, etc... please! ;)
posted by kaolin

27 comments; 19 subscribers

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 / 19:54:16
TO ENTER TO WIN OUR COPY, TELL US ... WHAT WOULD YOU BUILD YOUR CASTLE OUT OF? Stone and timber are off limits! Entries will be considered through Monday, September 23 (midnight, pacific time). Open to anyone in the US/Canada.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 / 21:05:35
could make it out of oreos but then it would be eaten...hmm- I guess something durable- so diamonds :) or is that stone to you? Yep diamonds would be so pretty
Thursday, September 11, 2008 / 00:09:55
empty beer cans, now leave me alone i have to drink these purely to create more building material
Thursday, September 11, 2008 / 05:17:40
Milk cartons filled with sand. Trying to save the world.
Thursday, September 11, 2008 / 17:14:06
Coffee cans, I do love my coffee. Thanks.
Saturday, September 13, 2008 / 09:24:14
I suppose I'd have to build my castle out of excess packaging materials and used holiday bags and wrappings. It always seems sad to see bags and bags of waste on the curb. I'd have a technicolor castle molded from miscellaneos clear plastic bubble pagaging over brightly colored cardboard and paper. It would be an homage to our consumer greed showing the world our family's fondness for Peanuts Christmas items, Hello Kitty toys, Banquet Chicken, personal hygiene items, video games and kitchen gadgets!
Saturday, September 13, 2008 / 21:49:48
I would build my castle with bricks.
Saturday, September 13, 2008 / 22:11:43
Hmm. Not sure I'd count bricks--I know they're more ceramic than stone, but they're still ... stoneish.
Monday, September 15, 2008 / 12:45:46
Pumpkins for the walls, and gingerbread on top. lol == wouldn't be much of a fortress would it?
Monday, September 15, 2008 / 15:57:23
I would build my castle out of truth -- it's solid, unmovable and firm. My foundation would be out of honesty, the walls integrity, the windows fidelity and the roof -- genuineness. I would dare anyone to knock it down.
Monday, September 15, 2008 / 16:01:23
I live in the desert, surrounded by sand. I’d stand by the side of the road handing out bandanas and blowtorches, and men and woman would get out of their cars and help me. They’d throw their ties over their shoulders and kick off their heels, and we’d use fire to turn the sand into glass. A fabulous fortress of glass. It would be thick and sturdy, and afterward we’d all crowd inside and run our hands over the bubbles, the impurities. We’d lie on the floor and watch the sun blaze through the walls before it goes down.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 / 22:03:21
Teflon! So anything bad would slide right off it.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 / 07:48:46
I'd build it out of glass and hope it never hails.
Thursday, September 18, 2008 / 14:09:08
I would first build the framework with popscicle sticks slathered with glue(plastic not wood of course). Then I would shave my head and anyone else's head I could find so as to cover the exterior with human hair.
Saturday, September 20, 2008 / 18:32:58
My castle will be made of chutzpah.
Sunday, September 21, 2008 / 13:40:27
I would build my castle with beautiful colored wine bottles.
Monday, September 22, 2008 / 00:55:19
I would build mine out of metal or tin so I sould hear the rain hit the roof and then I would take me some super awesome naps and curl up and read books to the great sound.
Monday, September 22, 2008 / 08:54:30
I'm gonna build my castle out of books. I have so many of them that I've already read that it would be a great use for them!
Monday, September 22, 2008 / 10:23:52
I would build my castle out of seashells. That way I could hear the sound of the ocean within the walls.
Monday, September 22, 2008 / 12:07:37
Since I have so darn many and they are always getting more I would use all the copies of Hippaa privacy we get from the doctors office and other handouts like that like the parents rights with special needs students from the school.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 08:52:08
Clouds. I still think of cloud castles every time I fly. They look so solid, so beautiful, like you could walk out of the plane and never set foot on earth again.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 09:47:25
Oh no hesitation, castle would be made of wheat.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 11:21:57
I would build my castle of photos of family and our favorite places. I could be near the mountains I love, the beach whenever I wanted and the rivers and lake where my family has so many memories. My family would always be with me.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 18:00:16
I would build a house out of recycled materals and make it eco friendly
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 20:27:28
I would build mine into the side of a hill, using dirt and leaves...very green!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 / 21:35:29
I would use brick
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 / 11:30:32
And the winner is GracieCat! Thanks to all who entered, and maybe don't go into the construction trade any time soon ;).

Do you have a comment? Log in or Register; registration is quick, painless, free, and spam-free (unless you ask for it)