Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George – book review

"Silver in the Blood" by Jessica Day George.
“Silver in the Blood” by Jessica Day George.
I picked up Silver in the Blood on my lunch break because I liked the cover (beautifully illustrated by Craig Phillips). I didn’t expect to be particularly amused. It’s very rare for me to enjoy anything that smacks of teenage-supernatural-romance, but this one exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. I wound up binge-reading the whole thing that evening/night, and rare indeed is the book for which I will sacrifice sleep.

Set in 1897, this novel tells the tale of cousins Dacia and Lou, two wealthy young New York socialites traveling to Romania to spend time with their mothers’ side of the family. Their separate journeys take several turns for the weird before they meet in Bucharest. After they meet and journey to the family estate, events grow stranger still, with the cousins caught in the thick of a battle that’s been building for ages.

The overall storyline is predictable in spots but surprisingly fresh in others. I really enjoyed how the story was accented with excerpts from both girls’ letters and diaries. The author took time to make the written language sound both “period” and suitably young, both of which can be tricky to do well.

The magic in Silver in the Blood is consistent and surprisingly practical. I can’t say very much about it without giving away a big chunk of the story, but were I wearing a hat, I would take it off to Ms. George. She did a really good job with the magic, not just in creating the system, but also in creating credible reasons why those possessing it hadn’t already taken over the world (or at least their corner thereof). She explores the effects (good and bad) that the magic—and the discovery that they possess it—has on Lou and Dacia. The magic here isn’t just one more block in the world-building tower—it’s an integral and well-crafted part of the story.

The book also does a good job handling character growth. The two main protagonists certainly grow and change over the course of the story. With the secondary characters, it can be hard to determine how much is character growth and how much is simply the protagonists’ knowledge of those characters increasing, but either way, Silver in the Blood is fun to read. Some character changes seemed a bit too abrupt, and a couple of them seemed disconcertingly modern in an otherwise-well-depicted period setting. But, then, the characters experiencing those changes had just been through some distinctly atypical experiences, so I tried not to get too hung up on the bits that didn’t quite seem to fit.

For antagonists, the girls’ maternal grandmother is flat-out evil and a real piece of work from the get-go, but readers get to watch our other main antagonist shift from mere cad to genuinely scary (the book has an assortment of cads, early on, so I’m not giving away which character turns antagonistic).

Things turned a bit too predictable for my tastes when it came to the romantic side of Silver in the Blood. Creep is really a charmer. Charmer is really a creep. There’s more to the English fop than meets the eye. But, other than my too-predictable complaint, the romantic elements of the story were handled very tastefully, and the late-Victorian flavor to what constituted good manners (or terrible manners, as the case may be) was preserved.

Perhaps my favorite part of the storyline is how it frames and sets up the classic conflict between werewolves and vampires (that aren’t exactly vampires, though certainly bloodthirsty enough). The ending is reasonably satisfying, but leaves so many loose ends that I strongly suspect Ms. George will be revisiting this world and its characters in future books.

I enjoyed Silver in the Blood. It’s an engaging read. Its strengths were many, and its flaws were few and seldom severe enough to throw me out of the story. I don’t know if this is a book I’ll read repeatedly, but I’m glad I read it once, and if/when sequels come out, I’ll cheerfully read them, too.

Release Date: July 7, 2015 (USA)
ISBNs: 9781619634312 (hardcover)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Language: English

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 80%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (mild social drinking, one main character is drugged)
Language: 0
Sexuality: 2 (one passionate kiss, two intense but non-graphic scenes, shapechanging nudity)
Violence: 3 (some brutal violence, supernatural beings fighting, death)

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