Jessica Day George’s short story A Knight of the Enchanted Forest, published in the Monster Hunter Files (see review here) was excellent, funny with a streak of serious, and I checked out her other novels. While George writes mostly teen fantasy, Silver in the Blood is suitable for older teens and adults looking for a quick, enjoyable read with historical interest.
We meet devoted cousins, Dacia and Lou, both children of New York high society with mothers from a aristocratic Romanian family. The novel is set in 1897, when Romania is independent, beginning to step onto the larger European stage, with culture from both Paris and the Near East. Both girls are intelligent and rich; Lou is more timid while Dacia is braver and occasionally flouts social conventions.
Plot and Conflicts
The novel opens with Dacia, stuck in her family’s townhouse in Bucharest, waiting for Lou to arrive, bored, looking for friends and a little entertainment. Lou and Dacia meet some of their mothers’ family and realizes that not everything matches what they have been told. Grandmother is nasty and drops mysterious comments, Aunt Kate worries about something, Lou’s father is dismissed to leave Bucharest – with Lou’s twin brothers but without Lou and Dacia – and a somewhat mysterious man drops cryptic comments and questions when he meets Lou.
What makes Silver in the Blood work is the political tension that underlies the main conflict. Prince Mihai, descendant of Vlad the Impaler from centuries ago, intends to usurp the throne and he needs Dacia and Lou and their family to do so. Lou and Dacia know nothing about any of this and must discover what they truly are (not 100% normal human) and decide themselves whom and what they will support. The political angle makes the conflicts more believable.
The other conflict is between Lou and Dacia against their family elders. Lou and Dacia are Americans, not terribly impressed by centuries-old ties of loyalty and even less impressed by old prophecies. This conflict starts small and grows along with the political tension, then finally both resolve together.
Characterization is a little light. Lou and Dacia are more than debutantes or silly girls, as George uses diaries and letters along with the novel’s events to show us what they think and feel. Both are 19 or 20, old enough to marry, rich and attractive with many suitors in New York, then in Europe. Both girls are believable characters, but realize this is not a character-driven novel. It’s a fantasy with believable emotions.
Prince Mihai is a villain with virtually no redeeming qualities, drawn broadly, who displays his villainy through his actions. Lou and Dacia’s Romanian family also show their allegiances and character by the choices they make.
Silver in the Blood is interesting, especially if you enjoy fantasy with a slight historical twist. It reminded me a little Patricia Wrede’s Sorcery and Cecilia novels, mixing fantasy with high society in a late 1890s milieu. It is a light, easy read, and I enjoyed it on a cold winter afternoon in front of the fire.
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