Book Review: Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

*This review contains some spoilers*

Turn-of-the-century Romania, dark family history, dashing gentleman, oh my! Society darlings Dacia Vreeholt and Louisa Neulander suddenly find themselves whisked away from New York City to Romania, promptly upon turning 17. The pair of cousins have been given no information about their lengthy trip besides the tight-lipped silence from Aunt Kate, their cold chaperone. Shrouded in mystery, the girls can’t help but conjure up ideas of dashing, dark-lashed gentleman, European balls, and romantic carriage rides through the gorgeous streets of Bucharest. However, when their arrival is less than welcoming, Dacia and Louisa fear that their happy futures have all but disappeared. Their grandmother, Lady Ioana, informs them of a nefarious plot that involves treason against the crown, murder, and forced marriages. Without being given a choice in the matter, the cousins are swept into their families plan, all while discovering the dark, terrifying legacy that their ancestors have dropped into their laps. It’s clear that monsters don’t just live in fairy tales.

Dacia, usually strong and rebellious, grows terrified and sullen after learning her new destiny. While LouLou, normally reserved and soft-spoken, seems to find a new strength in her hidden gift. LouLou decides to use her family’s plan against them to save the Romanian crown. Alongside two dashing gentlemen, both girls are led down a journey of self-discovery in order to gain control of their own destinies.


***

I absolutely love books that take place in Eastern Europe because of the implied mystery and elegance (at least that’s what I thought of!). Additionally, look at the cover! Talk about gorgeous! Sadly, that is where my elation ends. I found it impossible to connect with the novel’s dual protagonists, Dacia and Louisa, because they struck me as incredibly immature, even after they went through their character development. Was that intentional? I may never know. Both girls obsess over vain things, even when they are in the midst of some serious personal crises. For example, soon after the girls learn of their heinous grandmother’s plan, instead of wracking their brains for a solution, Dacia seems preoccupied by the fact that some random relative stuffs her bra. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “how does this advance the plot or develop the characters in any sense!?”

Speaking of characters, I harbored a strong dislike for almost all of the secondary characters. Every single one of them was either spineless and weak, or evil and psychotic. You’d think that the latter would make things interesting, no? No. Lou’s father vaguely hints at impending danger at the beginning of the novel, and specifically implores Lou to tell him if she ever feels like she wants to leave. However, when the time comes and she does need his help, he’s no where to be found because he’s swanned off to escape the family. What!? Additionally, the girls’ cousin Radu is an absolute idiot. Every time he is featured, he seems to be undergoing some kind of whiny psychological episode wherein he just wishes he could help the girls but he just can’t because if he does, he will be killed! *Gasp!* I get that his character is supposed to reinforce the terror that the girls are facing, but it just doesn’t work. It seemed so forced that I just ended up wanting to rip his pages out.

Perhaps my biggest issue with Silver in the Blood was the novel’s pacing. As I was reading, I kept waiting for that moment when the author reveals more information to the reader to keep us going. I kid you not, 125 pages into the plot and we’re still following the dithering protagonists as they attempt to piece together clues to reveal the mystery of their visit. The author uses a dual perspective to give us a look into the minds of both Dacia and LouLou, but I found it very clumsy. During any action narrative, the author literally tells and does very little showing. It was as though she absolutely had to tell the reader what both girls were doing at the same time. It hampered the flow of the action big time. When the pair finally come to terms with their ancestral inheritance, if you will, they set out to foil the plot and save the lives of the Romanian king and queen (who the girls realize are to be killed by their family). The last quarter of the book rushes through the climax and denouement and suddenly the girls have become heroines and ride off with their new beaus. I think I gave myself a migraine with all of the eye-rolling that ensued. Dacia’s character arc was extremely rushed. She starts as a self-assured young woman looking for risk and adventure and goes through a traumatic turn of events that renders her lethargic and psychologically paralyzed. LouLou, on the other hand, is introduced to us as the more timid of the pair. Her character arc was actually fantastic- it was complete and you could absolutely see how she grasped her circumstances and used them to make her stronger. I only wish that Dacia would have been given the same consideration. Her lack of proper conclusion made me feel like the novel was incomplete. I do know that this is a series, so perhaps we will see more of that in the following novels.

All in all, I’m not sure that I will return to this series, although I can see myself recommending it to some of my teens. I really wanted to like this book- I had so many positive expectations because it seemed to be right up my alley. To sum up, I will quote the novel in question. “I’m sorry, is any of this supposed to make sense? . . . I’d been hoping for something more concrete.” My sentiments exactly.

Silver in the Blood is published on July 7th, 2015. An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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