The Silver Tide
by Jen WilliamsThe island of Euriale is said to be cursed, a place where even hardened pirates avoid. But not the reckless Black Feather Three, in the third part of the Copper Cat trilogy. Spurred on by Devinia the Red, a notorious pirate, they embark on another adventure to explore the mysterious centre of the island, even though nobody is known to have escaped from that place alive. There is something twisted about the magic within the island, and the Black Feather Three's previous exploits with the gods may have awoken something supernatural.
Euriale is guarded by monsters, making it difficult for a ship to sail up the river to its interior, and that's why Devinia wants to team up with our heroes. There's also the small matter of her family connection with Wydrin.
Problems stack up quickly. Estenn, a fanatic who wants the return of the old gods, has raised a tribe of glassy-eyed followers who hang on her every word. She has imprisoned a giant spider which has special powers of sight, and is torturing it. Sebastian finds himself compelled to abandon his belongings and his companions to go wandering off in the thick jungle of the island's interior, without any apparent protection. The pirates may be in search of treasure, but they need to pay attention and not let their greed get in the way of common sense, in a place that swirls with magic, curses, and ominous clues. Here be dragons.
The Silver Tide conforms to the Hollywood model of injuries and death. That's to say, people seriously injured in one chapter can be swinging weapons happily a couple of chapters later as if nothing was ever wrong, and wounds that should fester in the hot, humid Euriale jungle only affect those morally questionable minor characters who we're not invested in. Even death can be a temporary inconvenience in this high fantasy world. This kind of thing increases the fun, but it also lowers the emotional stakes somewhat.
Part-way through, the story lurches into time travel, as the Black Feather Three attempt to prevent Estenn from rewriting history. With gods, dragons, demons, mages, and crazy fanatics, this is a maximum intensity trip with plenty of action. There's no certainty that the main characters will succeed or return to their time with it unchanged. Although they know things about the past that they shouldn't, they're not natives of that time, and they can't expect to fully understand it or to be believed by the people they're trying to protect, so there's a lot of intrigue as they try to achieve their mission without giving too much away.
The story builds up to an epic climax as the characters confront the gods and test the limits of their abilities. It's tremendous fun. And there are all kinds of dragons. So many dragons!
The ending gives closure for all the main characters, but it is a little short. I would have liked to know more about the fate of Ephemeral, Sebastian's dragon-kin daughter, and all of the other dragon-kin, for example. For such a busy trilogy, packed with all manner of characters, creatures, and magic, there was scope for tying up many more loose ends. Overall, however, this is a rollicking feelgood high fantasy with magic and mayhem at every turn.
26th October 2023
Review © Ros Jackson