Fantasy Review: ‘The Silk Map’ by Chris Willrich

The Silk Map (Gaunt and Bone, #2)Ok, I see you over there.  What do you want?

I am here to help.  Last time you read Willrich you got stuck during the review.  I assumed this trend would continue.

One time does not make a trend.  And I am getting along with this review just fine thank you very much.  I was just gathering my thoughts.

Playing video games while the word document stays blank?

Shut up.  I will have you know I am better prepared this time around.  See this beat up receipt I used as a bookmark?  I also used it to mark favorite quotes I may put into the review.  Like this one.

You see, this is why I needed a poet.  You can say ‘what the hell is that?’ so much more artfully than I can.

Impressive.  Why are you dropping that quote in particular?

Because most reviewers seem to use quotes, who am I to argue? Plus I found it funny.

A theme in this book?

Oh yes.  I enjoyed the hell out of Scroll of Years, and I recall some dry wit; especially in the banter between Gaunt and Bone.  But Willrich turns it up to eleven on this one.  I was laughing throughout the first half of the book, and while things took an even more serious turn in the second half, there was still plenty of dry wit to make me smile.

But this isn’t a comedy, in fact the base of the story is rooted in tragedy  Events at the end of Scroll of Years have put a serious strain on the protagonist relationship, and one could argue their quest is for the greatest prize of all.  Love, parenthood, and everything.  Joined by Snow Pine, known as Not A Boy in the first book, they are tasked by the great monkey sage to find the legendary iron silk worms; said sage will in turn help them with their own problems.

Oh, its one of those epic quest books?  Bleh.

Yes, it is.  But it isn’t.  Well okay it is, but with a very real reason.  A geas from a demigod is a bit different than one from a king.  Less coincidence filled for one, as obviously the demigod will have leads that make more since than the average mortal would.

No, I enjoyed the questing aspect of the book.  It is no different than the first, a sword and sorcery tale with a  touch of weird.  It is a mystical land, and very lyrical.  Stopping to tell a story is a common occurrence; but in a land where words have so much power this isn’t a problem.  Once again the weird side of the tale is just strange enough to turn heads, but nowhere near where things could go.  A magic carpet, living writing hidden in scrolls, a great sage in the shape of a monkey buried under a mountain are all just strange enough to give a mystical feel without completely crossing into WTF territory.

Ahh, I fell for this last time. You build and build, but I feel you are about to drop the hammer.

Unfortunately yes.  The first book was short and sweet, polished and concise.  This outing is quite a bit longer, and while that is just fine on its own it lost some of its focus along the way.  The fact is I got confused a couple of times, and even a reread of whole chapters didn’t clear things up.

We have gone over this; it is ‘I before E except after…’

Ya ya, very funny.  As I was confused about a passage I got to point out the info may all be there, but I wasn’t seeing it.  After all it obviously made since to the author and an editor.  But if I read a passage twice and still can’t figure out what was going on I gotta put some of it on the book.  There was a desert scene early on that I really couldn’t make heads or tails out of.  It was the most egregious, but I lost track of the thread near the end as well, and it just got frustrating.

So it is a book I am torn on.  It is funny as hell, richly imagined, and a continuation of the series that worked in most aspects.  But a few confusing passages really hurt my enjoyment at times.  Still a series I am enjoying though, and one I will continue to follow for each and every book.  Willrich has built up a lot of good will for this reader.

3 Stars

Review copy provided by publisher.  Quote pulled from unedited advanced copy and may have changed by time of publication.

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