The Silent Shield by Jeff Wheeler
|Book Name:||The Silent Shield|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||August 22, 2017|
Spoiler Warning: It is difficult to craft a review of the fifth book in a series without spoiling some degree of what has come before. I’ve done my best to limit spoilers to the first trilogy of Kingfountain books but if you’re looking to read the entire saga with little or no foreknowledge, go buy the books and read the review later. If you don’t mind a little background, or you are starting with The Hollow Crown, there isn’t anything written below that will adversely affect your reading experience.
The Silent Shield, the fifth main book in Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain series, is proof positive that creative consistency makes for a good read. I feel like a bit of a broken record at this point, but Wheeler has once again crafted a short, engaging novel that manages to not only advance the overall narrative but succeeds in expanding the thematic scope of the series. The Silent Shield marks a new high point in a story that has been consistently excellent, and proves once again that one can craft a mature, emotionally resonant and accessible tale without relying upon the grim, the dark or the explicit.
Picking up less than a year after the shocking conclusion of The Hollow Crown, The Silent Shield finds the kingdom of Ceredigion still recovering from the sudden invasion of King Gahalatine of Chandigarl and Trynne Kiskaddon still reeling from the disappearance of her father. Trynne has been busy. The ranks of the Oath Maidens—the secret military order she founded at the Queen’s behest—have swelled due in large part to Trynne’s dedication to finding and training the best women the kingdom has to offer. Using her abilities as a Fountain-blessed, she’s traveled deep into the heart of Gahalatine’s kingdom in search of her father. And on the homefront, political intrigue and preparation for war continue apace.
For such a short book, The Silent Shield doesn’t lack for plot. There are multiple “main” stories, and while they all lead to the same place, this is a bit of a departure from The Silent Shield, where there was a more plot/subplot setup. This time, Trynne is at the center of everything, and while some may criticize the pace at which Wheeler moves from one major plot to the next, I think his method serves this particular series well.
The Kingfountain series is an all-ages series. To that end, it is short on—but certainly not bereft of—subtext. Things happen in this series, and setup is minimal. This isn’t a knock, but instead is one of its strengths. I hesitate to say that what-you-see-is-what-you-get with these books (Wheeler certainly uses intrigue and deception to keep the reader guessing) but if you’re looking for Game of Thrones layers of depth, this isn’t the series for you.
Being the middle book of a trilogy, it would have been easy for Wheeler to simply churn out 300 pages of setup for The Forsaken Throne, but he does the opposite. The shift in the Kingfountain world between the start of this book and the end is seismic in proportion. With a few exceptions, all of the hanging plot threads are resolved by the end of the book and the direction of the tale takes a new—and interesting—turn.
The centerpiece of the novel is an epic battle between the forces of Ceredigion and Chandigarl, and Wheeler does yeoman’s work in conveying the tension and violence inherent to battle without relying upon gore or sensationalized action. The battle is tense and nuanced, and intrigue and subterfuge play a large role in how the entire set piece unfolds.
Wheeler also delves further into the culture and geography of Chandigarl, introducing new characters and cultures that, to this point, have only been explored in the most basic of ways. The exotic geography of Chandigarl stands in stark contrast to the dense forests, snow-capped mountains and rolling meadows of Ceredigion. The end result is that the Kingfountain world feels bigger by the end of the book, and exceedingly more diverse.
Chandigarl has a decidedly Far Eastern flavor and Wheeler freely admits that the Chinese Empire was its inspiration. Arthurian legend also looms large once again—particularly the stories of Merlin, Morgan le Fay and Lancelot. Throw in a bit of Norse mythology and a bit of Joan of Arc and what the reader is left with is a tale that feels familiar without feeling like a retread.
What sets The Silent Shield apart from prior books in the series is the emotional maturity on display. Wheeler uses Trynne to ruminate on love, loss, duty and loyalty to excellent effect. It is those themes—particularly those of loss and duty—that make The Silent Shield so appealing to adult readers. Trynne experiences loss and tragedy throughout The Silent Shield and there is very little in the way of happiness to be found in these pages. Viewed through lens of duty—duty to her Queen, her family, and the will of the Fountain—there is a quiet nobility to her suffering that never feels maudlin. She isn’t a martyr. She doesn’t whine or wallow, but she also doesn’t shy away from feelings of doubt or disappointment in her lot in life.
The Silent Shield is an exceedingly entertaining novel. While still packed to the gills with action, intrigue and magic, the fifth entry in Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain saga ups the emotional ante and takes the reader on a journey that is as intimate as it is epic. Wheeler’s Kingfountain novels continue to be excellent examples of all-ages fantasy done to perfection.