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Nonfiction

Book Review: The River of Silver, by S.A. Chakraborty

The River of Silver
S.A. Chakraborty
Hardcover / eBook
ISBN: 9780063093737
Harper Voyager, October 2022, 256 pages

Hello once again, readers, and welcome back to another book review. Today I’m going to go over a book I found lushly immersive, as well as a pleasantly different perspective on a familiar setting—The River of Silver, by S.A. Chakraborty.

Some of you might remember my earlier reviews of Chakraborty’s Daevabad Trilogy (collectively: The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold), and she once again returns us to her magic-infused world of djinn in The River of Silver. This book, however, is unlike the previous three, instead being a collection of short stories and deleted/alternative content accrued during the writing of the Daevabad Trilogy, but that doesn’t make it any less enthralling than the previous entries. Instead, it gives us a deeper look at almost all of the characters, both primary, secondary, and tertiary, and fleshes them out with additional vividness that frames their actions within the trilogy in a new light.

Since there are many references to events and people from throughout the Daevabad Trilogy, I would highly recommend reading it first in order to get the full experience of The River of Silver, but if you don’t mind spoiling some things for yourself it can also serve as an excellent introduction to Chakraborty’s universe for those unsure if they want to devote the time to do so. Her writing style of exquisitely imagined environments filled with the magically mysterious and mundane alike are just as much on full display in this book as in the previous three, along with the same patient character-building that made them a delight to read, so if you do decide to jump in with this as your first introduction to Chakraborty’s work, think of it as a tasting menu of what’s on offer within the fully realized world of Daevabad.

For those who have read the trilogy, The River of Silver is a nostalgic re-acquaintance with familiar faces that feels a lot like a well-executed behind-the-scenes tour of a long-running television series. The short stories enhanced my understanding of various characters and their motivations, while also reminding me of the initial sense of wonder I had reading through the first three books, and in several instances made me want to go back and read them again to see how my views and reactions might have changed based on the new information provided. Nothing felt like it was filler content or a cash grab, but rather more like the author was kind enough to invite me into her workshop to explain all the clever little flourishes that didn’t quite make the initial cut, but were nonetheless well worth experiencing on their own merits anyways.

The only downside I can point out with The River of Silver is that it struggles to maintain a sense of overall continuity, due to several of the stories being alternative endings or prologues, along with the major time-skips to get from event to event, but it’s a minor quibble meant only for those who want their book to be a single self-contained package and might feel cheated otherwise. The River of Silver is definitely much more of a companion book/final farewell, meant to be read with the understanding that at some point you’ll go reference the trilogy if you haven’t read it already (and at this point I hope I’ve made it clear that I think the trilogy is worth your time and that you should go read it).

Overall, I felt like The River of Silver was a delightfully unexpected sendoff to a series of books I really enjoyed reading, and I’m excited to see what Chakraborty has planned for the future.

Read if: You enjoy baroquely complicated magical romances; you feel conflicted when bad guys appear to have good motivations; you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to fly a winged lion.

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Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe

Chris Kluwe grew up in Southern California among a colony of wild chinchillas and didn’t learn how to communicate outside of barking and howling until he was fourteen years old. He has played football in the NFL, once wrestled a bear for a pot of gold, and lies occasionally. He is also the eternal disappointment of his mother, who just can’t understand why he hasn’t cured cancer yet. Do you know why these bio things are in third person? I have no idea. Please tell me if you figure it out.