There is a Tanya Huff book to fulfill any possible speculative fiction need. She can write in any genre she chooses and does them all well.
Missing the first time you ventured into Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar or Katharine Kerr’s Deverry? The world of Huff’s Quarters series will give you plots, counterplots and magic rooted in music, while The Fire’s Stone and the Wizard of the Grove duology both offer inventive takes on various high fantasy tropes.
Need an urban fantasy fix while you wait for the next Seanan McGuire? You could go with the Blood series, about a private investigator forced to work with Henry Fitzroy, the illegitimate (and undead) son of Henry VIII. Or for something lighter (think snarky talking cat), choose the Keeper Chronicles, which begin with Claire being put in charge of, literally, the Bed and Breakfast from Hell.
Military space opera more your style? The Confederation novels follow Sergeant Torin Kerr through the galaxy as she deals with an increasingly diverse collection of alien races and conflicts.
This is hardly everything she’s written, but the best part about her work? If it’s by Huff, you can rest assured it’ll make you laugh, tear off at least a few pieces of your heart, and leave you wanting more.
Not offensive to women = 1 pt
I didn’t find anything about this work to be offensive to women, and found all the female characterizations authentic.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
The main protagonist is Mirian, a failed magical student who gets entangled in saving five members of Aydori’s Mage-pack (the elemental mages who protect the country, when they are kidnapped as an act of war. We also get the perspective of Danika, one of the kidnapped women, as well as multiple female supporting characters.
And I’ll say this – don’t even think about underestimating a single one of them!
Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
So many times! In particular, the interactions between the five Mages as they deal with captivity, and scheme to get free, are fantastic.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts
I read a lot of fantasy, but few novels have captivated me like this one.
Huff’s universe is detailed and evocative, pulling out elements from so many genres and fusing them effortlessly. While it’s at times brutal and startling (most of the conflict centers around a massive empire declaring war on Aydori and Mages being kidnapped as a result), the moments of humor are genuine and well-placed to lighten the tone.
The Silvered also received the 2013 Aurora Award for Best Novel, which is given by the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association.
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
This is one of those books that take you by surprise from the very beginning. Huff’s worldbuilding is incredible, incorporating Regency elements and the clash between magic and technology. While there are werewolves, it’s one of the few instances I’ve found of those creatures in a high fantasy setting instead of an urban one. Every time I thought I knew where the story was going, Huff did something unexpected that also managed to be consistent with the world and stakes she created.
There are two things about this book that make it the Huff I recommend people start with.
First, it’s an entire book about women being awesome and having adventures. So many books fall into the trap of the protagonist being the only female character worthy of respect by virtue of “not being like other girls.” Here, every single woman is unique and none of them are devalued for what makes them who they are. Rather, the choices and conflicts they encounter rely on their particular strengths and we’re left with an entire spectrum of powerful women.
Then there’s the ending. There are a lot of predictable, easy things Huff could have done and she falls back on NONE of them. By the last page, you’ve gone on a rollercoaster of emotions and have to catch your breath.
Normally when I make book recommendations, I end up describing things as combinations of other books. But this one is literally unlike anything I’ve encountered before, from any author. It’s dark, startling, funny and wonderful. My only complaint is Huff has stated it’s a standalone.
Bookshelf space is precious. Eventually, the shelves begin to get fuller than they already are, start bowing, and then the shelving unit itself starts to collapse…and Tanya Huff books are completely worth the wreckage.
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