Silent Hall by NS Dolkart
Silent Hall is about five island teens that are the only survivors of a particularly gruesome curse that causes everyone else on the island to die on land. We’re introduced to each character quickly and in successive chapters. There’s Narky, who murders a ‘love rival’ in the first chapter. That’s how you start a book!
I’m going to talk a lot about the characters because they’re what made me love this story. And the best part about Silent Hall? It never slows down when introducing characters. We meet the other four main characters–Pheadra, Hunter, Bandu, and Criton–in the next several chapters. It becomes apparent something bad is going to happen, and all of the islanders except the five teens are dead by like chapter seven. This story really waste time and keeps the plot moving. There’s enough in this book for an entire trilogy’s worth of action, but it doesn’t feel rushed.
The entire Five Man Band–my favorite trope–is done exceedingly well here. The leader is, oddly enough, Narky, the murderer. The lancer is definitely Bandu, the feral child. Criton is the smart guy, Hunter is the big guy, and Phaedra is the chick. I loved Bandu and Hunter, and Bandu is a *motherly* version of the lancer, which is a fun twist on that character archetype. Hunter is surprisingly reserved and sensitive for the big guy, and I connected with both of these characters. As the smart guy, Criton drives a lot of the plot because it’s heavily based in questing for new mythology. Out of all of the characters, Pheadra is the least developed. I feel her arc never came to completion (sequel?). I can’t get out of talking about characters without mentioning Psander, the wizard who owns Silent Hall. Psander never came into focus as a character for me, and she mostly serves as a plot device. The main five are strong enough that it doesn’t matter that much.
The plot moves fast, and you’re constantly deciphering the new mythology that comes along. The mythology focuses on the gods and the barriers between the worlds. I was as frustrated as the characters were not to learn more or know more. The obscurification felt almost too purposeful in some parts of the story, and some explanation on how magic works was sorely needed. The most exciting part of the novel focuses around the elves, who are not the friendly, fairy creatures of folklore. They’re strong warriors and gather their powers from an evil tree. We do find out–fairly quickly, too–how the elves powers work and why they work. I think that made that part of the story more concrete and helped propel the action.
The weakest part of Silent Hall is how Psander and her missions feel underdeveloped. They’re basically fetch quests, and while the five characters have emotional reasons for wanting them to happen, it’s never explained why Psander’s magic works. This does hurt part of the ending of the book.
- I couldn’t stop thinking of ‘narking’ every time I read Narky. I have no idea if this was intentional on the author’s part.
- The romance plots surprised me. They felt realistic, if not fully developed, and I felt ‘sequel’ in those unresolved stories.
- I read a lot of fantasy series where people natter about religion this summer. Can’t say I particularly enjoyed that aspect of this book.
Rating: 5 stars. This book wasn’t fun, but it was action packed, and I liked all of the characters.