The invulnerable, super-strong warrior Infidel has a secret: she’s lost her magical powers right at the moment when she needs them most. To keep a promise to a fallen friend, she must journey to the frozen wastelands of the north.
Her quest leads her through the abstract realms of the Sea of Wine, where she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all life. Hush, the primal dragon of cold, has formed an alliance with the ghost of a vengeful witch to murder Glorious, the dragon of the sun, plunging the world into an unending winter night.
Without her magical strength, can Infidel possibly survive her battle with Hush? If she fails to save Glorious, will the world see another morning?
Earlier this year I read and reviewed Greatshadow, and I thought it was brilliant. As I said in my review: ‘… any story that can legitimately clothe its main character in a chain mail bikini and make it functional can only be genius!’ Having enjoyed Greatshadow so much, I was looking forward to reading Hush rather impatiently as I wanted to find out what would happen to Infidel and Stagger. So you could say I had rather high expectations when I started Hush.
Happily, my high expectations weren’t disappointed. I loved Hush, perhaps even more than I loved Greatshadow. Other than obviously being part of a continuing story, Hush never felt like a second book in a series; Maxey knew where he was going with his tale and keeping a tight rein on it, never letting it meander or bog down. Instead we get action by the minute and travel by the mile, as we leave the Isle of Fire, the main focus of the action in the last book and follow our intrepid adventurers to icy Qikiqtabruk. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a story if everything was as straightforward as that sentence made it seem, so there are plenty of interesting characters and shenanigans to keep us occupied on our way there.
Action, travel and shenanigans aside, Hush had some surprisingly philosophical leanings thanks to Stagger. Returning in his capacity as narrator, this time round he isn’t just along as a ghost observer, he actually gets in on the action thanks to Sorrow, a materialist who binds him as a wood golem in her service. This semi-return to life – Sorrow makes it clear that the binding won’t last and once Stagger’s spectral energy runs out he’ll move on for good – prompt a lot of musing on the meaning of life and love for Stagger and give him a chance to, for once and for all, tell Infidel the whole of his feelings for her. There are a lot of lovely passages in the book, unexpectedly touching in this hard-hitting tale of high adventure, such as the one I added as a quote to my Tumblr. It made reading Hush a pleasure beyond that of a fantastic story, it made me appreciate the prose as well.
Beyond the addition of Sorrow as one of her travel companions, Infidel also adds the Romers, a family of Wanderers and the owners of the Freewind. She hires them to take her to Qikiqtabruk and they are a fabulous set of characters. Consisting of the captain, Gale, and her children, they are a handy bunch to have a round in a pinch, as they each have gifts given them as rewards by the mermen – the tale of which must be interesting in its own right and which we don’t fully get here, alas – and they are very resourceful. They are joined by their dry man Brand, who is the one who conducts their business on land, as Wanderers can’t set foot on dry land, because of their deal with Abyss, the primal dragon of the sea. However entertaining and intriguing the Romers are, the real star to join Infidel is Sorrow. Not only is she a materialist – a witch who is able to manipulate matter after hammering the relevant nail into the correct position on her head (!!) – she’s also the estranged daughter of one of the judge-captains of King Brightmoon’s fleet and as such has a lot in common with Infidel in the daddy-issues department. Sorrow is a fascinating character, at once coldly analytic and strangely empathetic; I never was quite sure whether she didn’t have a hidden (nefarious) agenda.
Beyond a new set of companions for Infidel, we also get a new set of dragons, Hush, Rott and Glorious, a new villain, Purity, and a lot more information on the world, its links with the abstract world and its magic. Hush and Glorious are awesome – well duh, they’re dragons, but even beyond that – I loved that they were at the same time all too human, I mean they’re whole animosity was based on a lover’s quarrel as Greatshadow told us in the previous book, and far beyond humanity as the humans don’t even rate in their decision-making process. The world seems to have far more depth to it than I suspected after last book, which was mirrored both in the races and people we encounter and the way the different magics we’ve come across so far are connected.
Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Hush. Despite its sometimes a little more serious passages, it was still a fun romp and anyone just looking for more of what made Greatshadow such a great read (no pun intended) will definitely find it in Hush. For those who found Greatshadow to be mostly light entertainment, I think you’ll find more heft in Hush, with a world that has more depth, a narrator given to more serious introspection and some more rounded motivations for its characters. Hush‘s ending left me spinning and I can’t wait to see where Maxey will pick up Infidel’s tale in the next book, Witchbreaker, next year! Hush was released by Solaris Books earlier this month and should be available from all the usual venues, both online and off.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.
The kind folks at Solaris have also provided me with a copy to give away to one of my readers. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win James Maxey’s Hush, send an email with the subject HUSH to pallekenl [at] xs4all [dot] nl (or just click the little envelope on the right) with your name and your mailing address and I’ll have my husband randomly pick a winner. The giveaway is open to addresses in the UK and EUROPE only, but please, only one entry per person or you’ll be disqualified!
The competition will remain open till July 28th and I’ll announce the winner on the 29th.