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REVIEW: Silent Blade and Silver Shark by Ilona Andrews

Dear Ms. Andrews:

Thank you for sending me a complimentary copy of this short story. Because it is short, I admit I don’t have much to say about it. When I was told that this book was connected to another short, “Silent Blade”, it made sense to read it and review it together. I had no problems reading “Silver Shark” as a stand alone should the readers wonder where to start. However, the couple in “Silent Blade” play a role in “Silver Shark” and thus scenes from “Silver Shark” serve as a kind of epilogue (complete with kids!) to the couple in “Silent Blade”. While both stories are set in New Delphi, Silver Shark takes the world building a different place. It could be argued that absent the New Delphi setting, these were two very different worlds.

One thing I think is wonderful, though, is the examination of the clan idea here. Andrews writes about this topic in all of her books, but most obviously in “On The Edge”, a book I enjoyed tremendously every time I read it. The clan is both powerful and protective, but it can also be stifling and dangerous. It can be a haven or a hell. In these shorts, I think you see both sides of the clan system and within the clan system, the niche that can be carved out for two special people.

Silent Blade

Silent Blade Ilona AndrewsIn a world where family meant everything, Meli excised herself from her clan to become their silent blade, an assassin that carries out threats on behalf of her family but because of her excision, the acts don’t reflect poorly on her family. The Galdes clan asks her to do a hit on Celino Carvanna because he is underbidding a project that the Galdes clan needs. The request is sweet because Celino Carvanna once broke Meli’s heart and led her to excision. Meli decides on a course of revenge that was surprising and held quite a bit of suspense. Would she kill him? Is there something worse than killing?

One thing that is remarkable in these shorts was the ease of the world building. I particularly liked the small details. This story and its sequel is a sexier, more romance oriented story than previous Andrews’ works. I thought that the sexuality of the story fit better here than in Silent Blade. The one problem I had Celino. I understood why Meli loved him. She was brought up to love him, trained herself to love him, and believed in her love for him wholeheartedly. I did not find Celino to be worthy of Meli’s love. He was cruel in his initial rejection of her. She forgives him because he was fighting the yoke of obligation and bondage and Meli was persistent in her pursuit. Unfortunately, I found his rejection of her to be telling of his character which was shallow and thoughtless and his later pursuit of her really didn’t change my mind. He pursued her relentlessly but didn’t show any change of character. He was still selfish but maybe less shallow. At least older, he appeared to appreciate different things although much of them still seemed physical. This was a quick and enjoyable read but I did wish that Meli found someone else to love, as her undying devotion seemed wasted on Celino.  B-

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Silver Shark

Silent Blade Ilona AndrewsClaire Shannon is a psycher who can kill people via mind attacks. In a Matrix-like interface, Claire and other psychers enter the technological world by hooking up to a network and then entering the bionet. While both “Silent Blade” and “Silver Shark” take place in the same world, I don’t recall the bionet being mentioned. This story felt a bit more science fiction whereas the first one was more fantasy. Claire lived on the planet Uley and was part Brodwyn retainer, one of the two entities that fought for supremacy on the planet. She was not a Brodwyn retainer by choose, but by circumstance. When Brodwyn falls to Melko, the other competing Uley faction, Claire is shipped off planet to New Delphi. As a Grade A Psycher, Claire would be terminated so she hides her abilities and passes herself off as a secretary. As a refugee, she must find and maintain employment or be deported back to Uley where the Melkos would kill her. She is accepted as a secretary for Venturo Escana, the head of a powerful Escana family. When Claire meets him, she is literally struck dumb by his golden magnificence.

Claire lives in a building with other refugees and they come to her, knowing that she is a high level psycher, when something goes awry and she needs to enter the bionet. Once in the bionet, however, she can be detected and her placid safe life might be destroyed.

Claire has very protective instincts, ones that won’t allow her to turn her back on those that look to her for protection. Veturo is much like that as well. He’s created an empire from which he cares for people and destroys those that work against him. As in “Silent Blade” the small details are used to great effect:

Claire watched it for a few seconds, picked up the knife, and chopped the pepper.

It was Saturday morning and she had woken up with a sudden need to prove to herself that she could cook. Immigration had fully stocked her refrigerator with raw ingredients, so she set them out on the counter and had the AI run a comprehensive analysis finding a combination that would result in a beginner-level recipe.

“One peeled compa, cut into strips.”

“Define compa.”

“Compa: fleshy fruit of Karlovskaya species, rich in Vitamin A. Flavor: sour, with sweet aftertaste. Appearance: red tetrahedron with rounded corners.”

Claire picked out a rough pyramid-looking red fruit. “Demonstrate peeling.”

I found the immediate sexual attraction that Claire had toward Venturo to not be in keeping with her character that is supposed to be totally locked down and numb from her war experience. I understand that she was evolving due to the exposure of color and life at New Delphi, but the immediate lust seemed jarring. The bionet scenes seemed a little strange to me.  Once in the bionet, the characters can shape shift and do all sorts of different things. It also seemed like a humid jungle.  In my head, it looked like a cross between My Pretty Pony and Avatar.  The story tends to jump around a lot, first from the planet, then to New Delphi, and then into the bionet, and then to Meli and Celino’s home.  For a short, we covered a lot of ground that could have been better used in developing the emotional components that seemed to underpin the story.  C+

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It’s hard for me to grade these two shorts because of their length, I found myself wanting more. For existing Andrews fans, it would be a shame to miss these stories. On the other hand, for new Andrews fans, I’d recommend one of her traditionally published books like “Bayou Moon” first because the fuller length story is more satisfying.

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. Lorenda
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 14:06:28

    Funny – I read these out of order, and when I was finished I liked Silver Shark better. I do agree with you that the insta-attraction didn’t seem to fit with the war-hardened soldier persona, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

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  2. Ilona Andrews
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 14:31:19

    Thank you! I really appreciate the DA team taking a chance on our self-pub.

    I’m hoping to do more with the world in the future, but I don’t know yet where to take it. Initially when I was looking for reviewers, I checked a lot of UF/PNR blogs and many of them stated no SF in their guidelines. It seemed to confirm what I’ve heard on author loops before – SF/Romance doesn’t always find its audience. I wasn’t sure if the UF readership would go for it, but it seems to have found its own little niche. So perhaps a short novel would be a good next step.

    Anyway, thank you again.

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  3. Estara
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 15:05:13

    Well, Silent Blade was half the size of Silver Shark so the world-building in SS was able to show more ^^.

    Also, Jane – the Silent Blade hero is called Celino ^^ – it jarred me somewhat when I repeatedly read the version with -a at the end.

    I thought the bionet description (a jungle world for Claire and an underwater ocean for Venturo) really good in SS.

    And in general, whenever I have read an Andrews short, I want more right away – so that was nothing new.

    I remember Ilona said on their blog that Silent Blade was a an attempt at their version of a Harlequin Presents and SS was the Boss & Secretary trope version. If you consider it as category romance, Jane – considering you read many more of those than I do – how do the shorts compare?

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  4. Jane
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 15:48:39

    @Estara: Thanks for the name check of Cellino. I thought I had copied that over from my Kindle copy.

    As for whether I think these are HP like, no. HPs are all about the agnst and the emotional journey. This was the biggest weakness of the two stories. These shorts are good because of the feel of the other world that is provided in a short space, not because there is high emotional drama that carries throughout the pages. In some ways, I felt the emotional connection of the characters was very cold and if anything needed to be afforded more space, it was the development of the romance.

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  5. Chelsea B.
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 16:10:18

    I have not read this author I will start with her full books!

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  6. MarieC
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 16:13:25

    I liked both stories. To be honest, I REALLY enjoyed Silent Blade. While there is a HEA, I liked that Meli leaves Celino with the statement that he can’t make up for the past with one night of reading through her old thoughts.

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  7. msaggie
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 16:29:10

    I liked both stories very much. The only gripe I would have is that I wanted both to be longer, full-length novels rather than short stories. I think romantic short stories are never very satisfying due to the limitation of the word count – the short story medium really isn’t enough for full-fledged development of a believable romance with a HEA which would last. Having said that, I think Ilona Andrews did well with both these kinsmen stories, which I enjoyed very much and have re-read a few times (easy to do as they are short!). I quite liked Silver Shark’s bionet – and the way it is perceived depends on each individual’s character – Clare’s perception is of a jungle, whereas Venturo sees it as an ocean (i.e. one of the protagonists is the silver shark). I liked this concept. It was a bit like entering a video game world! I would recommend both stories to all who want a quick fun romantic read with SF/UF/fantasy overtones.

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  8. Bettie
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 18:25:09

    I enjoyed both novellas, though I did finish Silver Shark wishing it had been longer and more fleshed out. However, I’m really glad they are publishing the shorts – the novellas help make the wait for the Nov. 28th release of Fate’s Edge a little easier.

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  9. Tae
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 18:51:31

    I really enjoyed Silent Blade and I thought it was sci/fi when I first read it instead of fantasy. Of course, I LOVE sci fi romance so I really hope they continue with this series and put out full length novels.

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  10. Jane
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 18:53:14

    @Tae: For keeping a fan happy between full length books, this is great but a steady diet of shorts wouldn’t work for me.

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  11. Kaetrin
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 18:57:43

    Hi Jane – do you think the $2.99 and $2.10 price tag (at Amazon) is reasonable? I ask because you mention quite a few times that the stories are short – I’m wondering, how short are they?

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  12. Jane
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 19:03:19

    @Kaetrin: Silent Blade is 18,796 words and Silver Shark is 34,906 (according to the RTF file so give or take a few hundred words for the intro, etc). So, is it worth it? I don’t know. For a couple dollars more you could get Bayou Moon and that is more fulfilling. If you are an avid Andrews’ fan then I think you would be happy to pay these prices.

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  13. Jane A
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 21:29:34

    I am always sorry to hear that authors are discouraged from writing Sci Fi romance, since I enjoy it so much. And since I do like it and I really like Ilona Andrews, Silver Shark worked well for me, though I do wish it had been longer. I would love a full length novel set in this world.

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  14. cecilia
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 21:48:46

    I can’t get it at Sony or Kobo yet. Boo. (Though, entertainingly, when I look up “silver shark” at Sony, I get “A Pirate’s Dream.” Yes, Sony, I suppose that could be what I meant.)

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  15. cbackson
    Oct 12, 2011 @ 22:18:53

    I generally like Andrews’ short stories a lot – I think that worldbuilding is tough in the short story format and that’s something they handle remarkably well. Silent Blade was a bit meh for me (the characters just didn’t grab me) but I really enjoyed Silver Shark. It was the obligation Claire felt to her fellow refugees that pulled me in, I think.

    I’m not a special friend of the title, though, which seems like it ought to be the name of an 80s anime.

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  16. hapalochlaena
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 00:40:39

    I really enjoyed both stories and hope to see much more from the Kinsmen universe.

    Oh, and I bought my copy of Silver Shark at Omnilit (several DRM-free e-formats are available):
    http://www.omnilit.com/product-silvershark-612017-143.html

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  17. Estara
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 16:18:08

    @Jane: Thanks for the answer. That makes a lot of sense to me – as a sf/f reader I got a lot out of those short stories regardless. But if that hadn’t been the case, I can see your aspects weighing more heavily.

    @msaggie: You’re saying it much better. Ditto.

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  18. Estara
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 16:24:03

    @Kaetrin: Silent Blade is about 42 pages and Silent Shark about 85 on my Sony-650.

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  19. nitnot
    Oct 16, 2011 @ 02:13:58

    I *loved* Silent Blade, and Ilona Andrews, I’d like you to know I can gulp 10 more like it and never feel bored. I promise. I’ll look out for Silver Shark too, and hope it will be better for me than a C.

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