The Silvered Serpents picks up after a devastating blow is dealt to what’s left of Séverin’s team. Whereas The Gilded Wolves had a hopeful, glamorous energy to it, its sequel is frenetic and icy. Steeped in distress and longing, this is not the book to read during a slump, because it is almost guaranteed to send its readers spiraling.
In the wake of the death which must not be named, the team is left drifting away and apart, pursuing their own ends until Séverin brings them together for one last mission that could save them or be their final downfall, but their aims are not the same. Zofia’s sister is dying, Laila’s unmaking is nye, Enrique’s career aspirations have taken a downturn, and Séverin has been destroyed by loss and shame, but he will save them all, even if he must leave his humanity behind to do it.
Although they’re meant to be a team, they never seem to be on the same wavelength. They’re always hiding things from each other and have disparate motivations. It’s actually a refreshing take on a heist novel, as it can be frustrating when characters seem to know each other’s every move though they’ve only worked together for a couple of years. While their dysfunctionality contributes to the gloominess that saturates these pages, it’s also endearing, and a natural obstacle that teams and friends face. Their interactions with each other are what gives this series life, above all else.
The plot of the book is engaging, but it is certainly bogged down by the aforementioned gloominess. Even the parts that drag lend insights into the characters, being much more character-driven as heist novels often seem to be. After all, it isn’t about the heist itself, but what it represents to each member of the team, and how they come together to make it a reality.
Séverin is a dull shell in this book, to be frank, and perhaps that’s just his character. However, from what I remember, he was actually a rather enjoyable perspective to read from in The Gilded Wolves. In this book, that is not so, but considering what he’s dealing with, it works in a sense. His ruthlessness in pursuing godhood is at first understandable, if a bit sad, but soon becomes trite in the repetition. Rather than anger, all his chapters radiate is cold detachment, which is difficult to get through, and his mistreatment of his friends doesn’t help the matter.
Similarly, Laila’s predicament, while devastating, seems to consume her identity, likely due to the repetition of certain phrases, which might be more of an issue with the writing style than an actual character flaw. Still, her perspective is certainly more enjoyable than Séverin’s, likely because she interacts more with the other team members, which has always been the best part of the books to me. Their banter, though spare, is what got me through the more tedious chapters.
Zofia is a standout in this book. The exploration of her character in relation to the others and her sexuality (or lack thereof- still not sure about that) engage and affirm in the same lines. Viewing her through the eyes of other characters is just as much of a delight. She is a very unique character and one I’ve grown to love dearly. I’d love to see more of her in action, doing her science-y thing in the third novel.
Enrique, a relatable and lovable character, is further fleshed out in this book, especially his love of history. If seeing characters nerd out about dusty books and relics is your thing, Enrique is your guy. His chapters are a joy, as are his relationships with Hypnos and Zofia, which is a wild ride that I will not get into because of spoilers, but wow. Very realistic, I imagine, and the drama is high quality, so I approve.
Hypnos is just a sweet boy who wants friends. He’s so funny and well not nice, exactly. But he’s funny, and he really is trying. Please be his friend.
Almost all the characters seem to struggle with race and sexuality in The Silvered Serpents, which is quickly becoming the norm in YA fiction (or at least in my self-selected echo chamber), and it adds a level of realness that grounds its more fantastical elements, as do the historical facts sprinkled throughout. I will admit, having rehashed my biracial identity over and over again over the past few years, I found some of the scenes on that to be a bit tiring, but for folks who don’t share that experience or are coming to terms with that aspect of their identity now, I think this is a great way to begin that journey.
The Silvered Serpents is a fantastic book for anyone who likes their novels character-driven and doesn’t mind waiting for the third novel in the series to get that redemption arc we so desperately need.
I’m looking at you, Séverin. Come on, man. Get it together.