The Silk Map: Vivid world-building and pretty decent poetry

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Silk Map by Chris WillrichThe Silk Map by Chris Willrich

The Silk Map is Chris Willrich’s second adventure in the GAUNT AND BONE series. The poet and the thief, along with their bandit friend Snow Pine, are searching for their lost children, and this book takes them on a quest along an ancient trade route where they confront wonders, demons and their own fears.

Willrich has created a world based on ancient China, and the Spice Braid route that Gaunt and Bone follow is patterned on the Silk Road. Along this road, poet Persimmon Gaunt and her thief husband Imago Bone encounter enemy soldiers, greedy gate-keepers, undead Charwalkers, dragon horses, a mad monk and an incarnation of the Monkey God.

All the things that I loved about the first book The Scroll of Years show up again in The Silk Map. I love the world Willrich has invented. The dialogue and action sequences are snappy. Willrich creates believable women characters and takes time in between adventures to let his principals deal with themes of identity, trust and loss, especially that most devastating loss, the absence of a child.

Gaunt and Bone’s son Innocence and Snow Pine’s daughter A-Girl-is-a-Joy are alive, but trapped in a magical scroll. The heroes must find the scroll in order to release them. The Lady Monkey agrees to help them only if they will bring her something from the valley of the Iron Moths; only no one knows exactly where that is. The Silk Map is the only known artifact that leads to the valley.

Willrich introduces the Karvaks in this book, a nomadic society of horse-people and archers inspired by the Mongols. Two rival princesses add excitement and complication to the plot, which is already brimming with setbacks, narrow escapes, double and triple crosses and startling revelations.

The plot was a bit of a problem for me, especially where the character called Deadfall was involved. Deadfall appears without much explanation in Gaunt and Bone’s camp. Later, Deadfall provides a vital object to an adversary in a deus-ex-machina way. That said, Deadfall is one of the most interesting new characters introduced into the story.

The technique of storytelling within storytelling used in the book is nice but it does slow the book down. All of the stories are really clues, tying into the main tale, but each one pulls us away, just a bit, from Snow Pine, Gaunt and Bone.

That is a nit, not even serious enough to rate as a quibble. Snow Pine and Gaunt both grow in this book, and that was wonderful to see. The writing is smooth, often funny, and the inclusion of Gaunt’s poetry adds a lovely burnish to this fun read.

Gaunt and Bone — (2013-2015) Publisher: Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are a romantic couple and partners in crime. Persimmon is a poet from a well-to-do family, who found herself looking for adventure, while Imago is a thief in his ninth decade who is double-cursed, and his body has not aged in nearly seventy years. Together, their services and wanderlust have taken them into places better left unseen, and against odds best not spoken about. Now, they find themselves looking to get away, to the edge of the world, with Persimmon pregnant with their child, and the most feared duo of assassins hot on their trail. However, all is never what it seems, and a sordid adventure — complete with magic scrolls, gangs of thieves, and dragons both eastern and western — is at hand.

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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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2 comments

  1. This is a series I keep meaning to read. I have both books, and I hear so many good things, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. :/

  2. Sounds great! I want to read this series.

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