First published on Fantasy Faction By now, I’m sure everyone knows how much I love Jen’s books. Last year I was raving about The Iron Ghost, which was one of my favourite titles of 2015, and I’m happy to say that The Silver Tide is firmly lodged in my favourites of 2016. Not only is it a great book, it’s a great end to the series. There’s a lot of pressure on an author to finish a trilogy to everyone’s satisfaction, but Jen has delivered a perfect finale. Like its predecessors, The Silver Tide is packed with fun, peril, wonderful characters and a few good taverns.
Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian are off on a last epic adventure. Like all great sword and sorcery, The Silver Tide starts in a tavern where we’re introduced to the delightful Devinia, a notorious pirate and Wydrin’s mother. She’s planning a trip to the cursed island of Euriale and enlists the services of the Black Feather Three. Though he lost his magic at the end of the last book, Lord Frith still has the staff crafted by the mage Selsye, making him the perfect person to propel Devinia’s ship through the becalmed waterways of Euriale. The island is beautifully described, especially its overwhelming heat, lush rainforest and its mysterious and sinister inhabitants: a true treasure island.
Our heroes agree to go, but when is anything straightforward? Euriale has a will of its own and Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian soon find themselves up against the gods and their self-declared mad emissary, Estenn. The Silver Tide is split into four parts, but it feels more like two. The first half is concerned with the journey to Euriale and the strange magic that flourishes there. The second is a full-on adventure through time, as Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian follow Estenn into the Ede of a thousand years ago, where the gods are still at large.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good time travel story and the beauty of this one is that we get to meet characters introduced in earlier books. Mages Xinian and Selsye (Xinian was merely a thousand year old spectre in The Iron Ghost), Joah (before he became the crazy Demonsworn mage we all know and love) and the gods themselves: siblings Res’ni and Res’na, Y’Gria and Y’Ruen, the badass dragon. There’s a satisfying feeling of coming full circle as the Black Feather Three arrive at Krete and the Citadel where The Copper Promise began. But the stakes are the highest they’ve yet been and it’s up to Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian to ensure that the future is not changed forever.
Now I’ve always had a thing for Frith and he lives up to expectations by mastering a new power and doing some seriously cool things with it. Wydrin is pushed to the limit of her abilities and their relationship is one heart-stopping journey of tenderness, humour and, yes, sadness. Sebastian too grows a great deal in this book, as he begins to embrace the connection he feels with all dragonkin. It’s often described as a silver tide, which leads me to think that each book’s title resonates with one of the protagonists: copper for Wydrin, iron for Frith, silver for Sebastian. (I love finding patterns in things, even if they aren’t intentional).
Another favourite character who gets a good bit of airtime is Ephemeral, once a brood sister, now a self-taught, independent (and married) woman. I’m glad Jen put so much time into her point of view, as it’s rewarding to watch Ephemeral change from being a nameless killer to a thoughtful, feeling individual. Her link to Sebastian helps, but it’s her own determination that leads her to become the person she envisions. Along with Wydrin, she makes a great role model.
In fact this series is full of diverse and interesting women; most of the storyline is driven by their motivations. Jen has revived the sword and sorcery genre, preserved its best tropes and thrown out all the old-fashioned gender stereotypes. Recently, she was kind enough to record an interview with me, in which she talked about her desire to depict healthy relationships where sex is consensual and rape doesn’t feature as a plot or character device. Historically, fantasy is infamous for using rape as motivation, or for facilitating female disempowerment; it’s encouraging to hear a writer discussing the fact so openly and actively working against this unrealistic and damaging trope.
The Copper Cat Trilogy is a series which manages to be fun, serious and topical at the same time and it’s surely destined to become a twenty-first century fantasy classic. It’s also full of heart. It will make you laugh, cry, smile – reactions that only the best books elicit. Jen’s characters are incredibly human; it’s her gift and ability as a writer that makes you feel so close to them, to want to see them achieve their goals and to find happiness. Frith, Wydrin and Sebastian – and indeed the world of Ede – will stay with me for a long time to come.