2020’s Drowned Country is a sequel to Emily Tesh’s secondary world fantasy, 2019’s Silver in the Wood.
Henry Silver, imbued with life everlasting and powers beyond mortal ken, has spent the last two years wallowing in lugubrious self-pity in Greenhollow Hall. It’s all very emo in a green and leafy way. The idyll is spoiled when Silver’s mother comes to call. Silver might have become a demi-god, but to his mother he is just Henry, her disappointing son. She has a task for him.
Note: if you haven’t read Silver in the Wood, you might want to stop here. Ensuing discussion contains likely SPOILERS.
Mrs. Silver is a professional monster hunter. Young Maud Lindhurst has vanished. Mrs. Silver is reasonably certain the person responsible is the vampire variously known as Mr. Jameson Nigel, Sir Nigel Julian, Abbot Julius the Black, and other names going back nine hundred years. Maud’s family would very much like her back.
Silver’s new abilities give him control over the plants of the Wood, which is a useful talent, but not why his mother sought him out. Nigel of the many names has rather particular tastes in his victims. He likes good looking young men. Silver is attractive and charming. Perfect bait.
The plan is for Silver to get captured and dragged off to Nigel’s lair, where he will either discover Maud still alive or at least determine her fate, then get rescued by Mrs. Silver and her imposing assistant Tobias Finch. The plan is both personally inconvenient (since Finch is the very person for whom Silver is pining) and based on a number of misapprehensions. One of which is that Maud Lindhurst is a victim. She isn’t; Nigel is the victim. By the time Silver and Finch regain consciousness in the vampire’s former lair, Nigel is long beyond saving.
Maud is a self-taught occultist whose childhood brush with Fae powers left her yearning for a journey to mythical Faerie. She believes she knows how to reach it. Nigel’s lair is a crucial element in her plan. The enthusiastic young woman off-handedly dispatches the an ancient and powerful undead and prepares to set forth.
Silver and Finch could try to drag the reluctant woman back to a family that will never understand her. Instead, they accompany her into a realm best left alone.
You may be wondering why I reviewed the second Greenhollow book before the first. One answer might be “because Drowned Country is a new release.” The actualanswer is that I got confused as to which of the two books was first. Also, I should probably have mentioned the series as a whole is called Greenhollow. Ah well, now you know.
Maud illustrates the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Her occult knowledge is impressive; she has rediscovered rituals long lost. Too bad that she does not have the insight to see that knowing how to do something does not necessarily mean you should then do it. Wandering off to the lost land of Faerie isn’t even the worst decision she makes in the story.
On the plus side, she is very personable, if not the right gender to attract Silver.
Silver may not be as brilliant as Maud, but he has had advantages. He grew up reading in his parents’ occult libraries. In some ways he’s wiser, because he realized early on that that it was better to disappoint his mother than it was to live up to her expectations, join in her monster hunts, and die or be turned. It’s too bad that he is isn’t wise in his romantic life; if he were, perhaps he and Mr. Finch would not be exes.
Having begun the series in the wrong place, I can assure new readers that this novel stands on its own.
This could very easily have been a dark horror novel — vampires! ancient eldritch shadows! baleful transformations! — yet somehow the work is funnier than it is horrifying. The prose is delightful, the boldly audacious characters are endearing. My only complaint is I wish it had been a bit longer. At least I can look forward to reading the first book.