Brandon Sanderson’s latest short fiction release, “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell“, is part of the Dangerous Women anthology of new short fiction edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. The story is not set in any of his existing worlds (as far as I can tell, anyway). To me, it had the feel of the early colonial period of the Americas, set in the Midwest when there were still forts protecting various routes of travel.
The story starts and ends with Daggon and Earnest, travelers resting and enjoying refreshment at the the waystop in the Forests on the main road to the fort. The waystop is run by Silence, who is secretly the famous bounty hunter known as the White Fox.
The Forests are full of shades who will attack humans if they don’t keep the Simple Rules. The waystop is protected from the shades by layers of silver all around it. This attracts many travelers, including less savory characters who may have bounties on their heads. When Silence thinks she’s spotted Chesterton Divide, one of the most notorious wanted murderers in the area, she has to decide how to get the bounty in order to save her waystop. She also has to do it without enraging the shades.
Sanderson throws you into the middle of “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell” and lets you figure things out as the story moves along. This is a good thing, and it creates a sense of eagerness as the story unfolds like a rose blooming: petal by petal, only revealing enough necessary to keep the story moving along and keep you interested.
Everything happens in a fairly small area within the Forests, but the world feels totally alive. You feel the sparks caused by the shades as they bump up against the silver. All of the characters felt developed, even though the story is only 46 pages long, and even though some of them only appeared on the pages for brief periods of time. You could feel the history of all of them, as well as that of the house and the Forests and everything in them.
I really enjoyed “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell“, and the only negative thing I can say is that I wish the story was longer. Perhaps Sanderson will revisit this world sometime and give us more of its history. I look forward to it, if he does.
Release Date: December 3, 2013 (USA)
ISBNs: 076533206X (9780765332066)
Title of Collection: Dangerous Women
Publisher: Tor Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (some social drinking)
Language: 1 (minor deity, minor expletives)
Violence: 2 (shade attacks, poisoning, fisticuffs, strangling)