Audiobook Review: Silver in the Wood & Drowned Country by Emily Tesh
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 stars
Series: The Greenhollow Duology
Publisher: Tantor Audio (August 18, 2020)
Length: 5 hrs and 51 mins
Narrator: Matthew Lloyd Davies
Silver in the Wood is an interesting take on the Green Man myth—a fabled figure often seen as a symbol of rebirth and the circle of life. Emily Tesh’s debut novella spirits us away to Greenhollow Wood, which has been protected for the past 4oo years by its caretaker Tobias Finch. To the people who live in the surrounding villages, he is known as the Wild Man, a creature out of legend and best left alone. In truth though, that’s the way Tobias prefers it. A recluse, he’s fine caring for the Wood by himself, with just his trusty cat by his side.
But then one day, Henry Silver turns up on his doorstep in the middle of a rainstorm. He’s handsome, he’s charming, and he is as curious about Tobias as Tobias is about him. Against the odds, a delicate friendship forms between these two disparate men, which eventually blossoms into something more. But when Henry, an avid historian and collector of folktales, goes chasing a dark legend and puts himself in danger, Tobias will need to come to terms with his loyalties and face down the down the shadows of his past.
This is a short but very lovely tale, combining earth and nature magic with mythology. It’s the very definition of enchanting, thanks mostly to the lush atmosphere surrounding Greenhollow Wood. Tesh has created a vibrant setting, literally alive with dryads and other natural spirits of the forest. The characters themselves almost feel secondary to their environment, for while Tobias and Henry are both well written, there is simply not enough time to develop their relationship, which reminds me of a fairy tale—and not exactly in a good way. These types of romances always sound wonderful and idyllic on paper, but the emotions involved are too often underdeveloped and not very persuasive, so that was my one big disappointment.
The story also struggled to hold my attention early on, but once we stopped exploring multiple threads and started focusing on a single one, things gradually got back on track. While I still think the relationship between Tobias and Henry could have used more fleshing out, I did enjoy the ending which, believe it or not, raised my satisfaction levels somewhat. All I’ll say is that it was an apt conclusion, one that perfectly matched the overall dark, ethereal tone of the book, though I’m also glad there will a follow-up to hopefully address everything that transpired.
Drowned Country picks up a little while after the end of Silver in the Wood, and reintroduces our characters Tobias Finch and Henry Silver, albeit in their new roles. Henry, however, is having a little trouble adjusting, and Greenhollow Wood has suffered for it. Things got to be so bad that his mother, Mrs. Adela Silver, had to get involved. Together with Tobias, she manages to pull Henry out of his mope and convince him to help them on a monster hunt. Out on the coast, in the dingy town of Rothport, a young woman has been abducted by an ancient vampire, and they’re going to need all the help they can get to stage the rescue.
I definitely preferred this follow-up to the first book, for several reasons. First, while Silver in the Wood was more about Tobias, Drowned Country turns the focus on Henry, who has a much more charismatic, infectious personality. Sure, he can be such an absolute child at times, and I’m also pretty sure a lot of his recalcitrance was exaggerated for effect. Still, this book made me feel more connected to the characters, in a way. It made the people feel more real.
And second, this was a much more entertaining tale. Again, I think much of this had to do with Henry at the helm. He’s a talker with a way of drawing the reader into his sphere. Through his point-of-view, Emily Tesh’s knack for storytelling really got to shine in a way that it couldn’t with Tobias.
Third, we get vampires and the fae. Seriously, what more can I ask for? The story takes us to brand new realms which are both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Despite the charming voice of our protagonist, this remains a brooding tale involving themes of yearning and devastating compulsion, mirroring the darker tones of the first book.
And finally, I loved the more nuanced dynamics in Tobias and Henry’s relationship. Things are definitely much more complicated this time around, but it isn’t simply drama for the sake of drama. I don’t necessarily demand happily-ever-afters, but I do like (and on some level expect) to see emotions grow and evolve in sequels, and I was also filled with hope at the way this ended, as a sort of counterpoint to the earlier tensions and sorrow.
All in all, this was a captivating duology. There were certain aspects that were weaker at the beginning but found their feet later on in the sequel. A shift in character perspective also helped me look at the story and its overall themes in a different light. I would recommend reading Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country together if you can, because the two novellas complement each other quite nicely, providing a complete and rewarding experience.
Audiobook Comments: I had a great time with the audio edition, which conveniently contains both books in the duology so you can finish the first one and move on to the next without skipping a beat. Matthew Lloyd Davies was a phenomenal narrator, varying tone, volume, pitch and rhythm in his voices to create an incredibly immersive listening experience. He was brilliant as Tobias and even better as Henry Silver, and the way he was able to step into the personas of the different characters was beyond impressive. So if you’re thinking of checking out the Greenhollow duology, definitely keep the audiobook in mind, I highly recommend it.