Date of Publication: May 2 2013
Source: Review copy- thank you!
When Viktor and Romulus, two peasant boys, dig too deep into their town’s strange past, they awaken the wrath of a mysterious overlord. As the blood brothers struggle to survive, their search for answers takes them through gambling parlors, bare-knuckle boxing matches, and dark forests full of wild animals and men alike. But even with the help of their friends, can they escape the deathly experiments their foe is creating in Staryi Castle?
Enter the bold lands of the Russian Empire where the colorful characters of The Card Game dwell, from the fortune-tellers and fire-jugglers of the Romani Gypsies, to the dangerous criminals that make up the Thieves World, the predecessor of the Russian Mafia.
My thoughts on The Silent Dear ate quite muddled. I read the first few chapters before agreeing to review it and I liked the writing. It was clear and concise; basically, there was nothing wrong with it. It drew me in and the scenes were well described.
What I didn't like had more to do with the story. This story is well developed. It's not a simple story and I was surprised and shocked when the author wanted me to be. It's easy to get caught up in the fun and adventure. I would argue that this book isn't 100% YA. It's about a younger set, and it features a lot of adventure and is wildly imaginative. I could see marketing it as MG or younger YA. The problem is in the characters. They're decent, but nothing distinguishes them at all.
I think this is probably one of the better examples of "plot based story" that I've ever read, because there isn't much character development or focus. There is a story that is happening, and the characters are important because they tell the story. In terms of sympathizing with them or caring about them, I didn't. I feel like I don't know them. They're the boys who did this and that, not the boys who are this and that. Not being able to connect with the characters is a big issue because if your plot isn't progressing well, your readers have nothing to look forward to.
The basis of The Silent Deal is that Viktor and Romulus, a mysterious boy from the woods, strike up a friendship in Aryk, a small, strange town in Russia where nothing is as it seems. Aryk has a secret, one that no one speaks about. Playing cards are forbidden and the town is isolated. Viktor and Romulus both have their reasons for trying to uncover the truth, and the stakes are higher than they imagined.
I was drawn in because this book featured male protagonists, and seemed to be completely different from typical YA. There is lots of action and the story is a big story because it attempts to incorporate many things like gypsies and Napolean.
When I started The Silent Deal, I couldn't get into it. There was nothing to set the characters apart and I struggled as the story began itself. It takes a while to get the story rolling, but once it gets rolling it's a good story. There are chases and deceptions and a compelling mystery. My only issues stem from some of the execution.
I already said the characters were an issue. The Silent Deal could have been so much stronger if I could connect emotionally with Viktor, or anybody. One thing I thought was really cool about Viktor is that he's the other guy. He's not the mysterious orphan dude. He's that guy's best friend. Harry's Ron Weasley, so to speak. He doesn't know everything and he's the guy that chooses to get into the mess and befriend the strange, wild child. Viktor couldn't completely trust Romulus and there was potential for Viktor to be a fascinating character in his own right, but he wasn't.
I also didn't enjoy how sometimes, the story was almost too big and elaborate. I didn't understand what the parameters of the world were; was there magic or no magic? Was it science? Alchemy? It's hard not to spoil, but there are otherworldly elements and mentions that are not explained at all, for example the Fairy Ring or Romulus's upbringing. They're just sort of there and they end up playing an important role in the plot. I definitely think the world could have been set up better because the confusion over what is possible and not possible was strange.
There's almost too many questions. There's no denying that The Silent Deal is an adventure. It starts out slow but picks up. I'm not sure if it's the story for me, because I couldn't connect with the characters and the setting didn't entirely fit in my mind. I did like the plot and the adventure. I think this is probably younger YA material, or MG, because just thinking of my friends, they wouldn't be interested. Although I liked the second half considerably more than the first, this book is overall a book I feel neutral about. 2 hearts,