Tina Connolly gives us a third book in the world of Ironskin, and continues to follow the women of the Rochart family with Dorie, Jane Rochart’s stepdaughter. In Silverblind, Dorie follows in the tradition of her stepmother Jane and her aunt Helen, fighting for the underdog, struggling to determine the right course of action when circumstance seem to pit humans against the incorporeal fey. In this book, we get a few more magical critters, too, including wyverns and a basilisk.
Adora Rochart, who goes by Dorie, is half fey, a secret she has kept from all but her closest friends. After the Great War between humans and fey, which the humans won, there were two conspiracies designed by the fey to achieve control or possession of humans. Now, however, the fey are completely defeated, except for a few who have managed to possess humans. All that is left of the Great War are a few “ironskins,” those humans with magical wounds that must be blocked by iron to protect other humans. Still, a draconian governmental agency is using fear of the fey to exert political control.
Dorie, who has gone to university, longs to study wyverns and applies to the scientific arm of the government, the Queen’s Lab. She is rejected for every position, not only because she is a girl, but really because her legacy has given her great beauty. A girl might be hired for field work — a shockingly beautiful one would not. She is, basically, offered a public relations job as “spokes-model” for the lab. In desperation, Dorie uses her magic to transform herself into Dorian, a slightly average looking young male. As Dorian she has no trouble getting hired and finds herself working closely with Tam Grimsby, who happens to be her cousin. She also finds out that the Queen’s Lab did, in fact, hire one woman for field work, the cold, smart and driven Annika.
The Queen’s Lab wants wyvern eggs. The albumen from the eggs limits the fey’s power, and it is being used as a weapon by a group of humans called Silver Eyes. Dorie discovers by accident that the albumen will also cure an “ironskin,” a fact she shares with Tam. Dorie is soon loaded with conflict. The government has declared all wyvern eggs government property, but Dorie knows several ironskins who deserve relief. She doesn’t know whether she should share her true identity with Tam, since she betrayed him when they were younger. Her conflicts grow deeper when she discovers that more than wyvern eggs are being controlled by the government. An herb that grows wild, which cures “crimson fever,” is now almost impossible to find and declared the property of the Queen’s Lab as well, even though it used to grow nearly everywhere. While the poor succumb to the fever, the government is storing up the plant.
The wyverns are being hunted to extinction for a purpose Dorie can’t figure out, but even more disturbing is the government’s interest in a theory of Tam’s, that a larger magical creature, the basilisk, really exists. Legends and folktales speak of basilisks who can “hypnotize” prey the same way the dog-sized wyverns can, but no one has seen a basilisk. Tam believes that they have a reproduction cycle like American cicadas, only hundreds of years long. If the albumen of a hatched wyvern egg controls the fey, what would the albumen of a creature ten times that size do?
Since the fey are no longer a danger to humans, Tam and Dorie struggle to discover why a stockpile of albumen is so important. Soon they find out that the tables have turned and the government is enslaving and exploiting the fey.
As in the other books, Connolly addresses social problems along with the magical ones. Secondary characters, like Dorie’s artist roommate Jack, are well-drawn and witty. Jack in particular is a nice foil for the cool, ambitious Annika. The descriptions of the wyverns are fun and lovely, especially the forest rookery that Tam and Dorian discover. The book lingers on the interpersonal and social issues for the first two-thirds and then shifts gears into a plucky-freedom-fighters-versus –the-government contest as Connolly merges her several plotlines. The last forty pages are the most fast-paced and exciting, and it’s a little jarring after the relatively leisurely pace earlier.
My only disappointment in the story, really, is that I don’t think Connolly plays fair with her magic at the very end. Dorie and Tam make a hard choice, taking an action that helps the fey but severely limits the remaining magic of the humans — all except for Dorie, who somehow gets to keep hers. It’s never adequately explained, and doesn’t seem like it’s quite playing fair.
This resolution feels like the end to the series; not that there isn’t plenty of work for Dorie and Tam and their family and friends to do to help improve this society! I enjoy Connolly’s clean, pretty prose and the way she makes complex social issues relevant to the characters. Silverblind is a good addition to the series.
Yep, which is why I'm willing to give a sequel a shot
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