The Silenced Tale by J.M. Frey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
All good things come in threes and the Accidental Turn trilogy is no different. Whilst I loved The Forgotten Tale, after reading The Silenced Tale I have to admit that it did suffer slightly from the second-book slump—though only in comparison. The Untold Tale was absolutely brilliant in how Lucy pokes at the fantasy novel from within the novel, and The Forgotten Tale continues in that tradition, but The Silenced Tale takes it into a whole different plane.
In this third book, the focal point moves from Forsyth Turn & Lucy Piper in Hain to concentrate on the creator of the Hain itself—the self-important, misogynistic white man, Elgar Reed. Can a work of fantasy truly stand alone from its creator? How much does the writer’s world view and experiences colour the work itself? How does the fandom that grows around a work affect it? What makes something canon? Is it the intention of the writer or how the fans interpret it?
Magic isn’t supposed to exist in the real world, but somehow it’s leaking through from Hain. And Elgar is being hounded by a stalker who just might be tapping into it. Elgar hopes the stalker is a mere mortal, but if he isn’t, the only way to stop it might be to write an end to it. Only, Elgar can’t. He can’t write anything else about Hain, knowing as he does that the people in it are real. That his choices as writer have affected their lives in very real and hurtful ways. He’s learning, though. He’s learning to be better, to be respectful, to stop hurting people for the sake of the plot, to stop taking people for granted, to stop being racist and sexist in his writing—though he still lapses in real life.
Fandom isn’t as pretty and gushing as it appears to be. Yes, it’s magic and it’s creative and it pushes the boundaries in a million different ways. But there are disgruntled fans out there who believe that the only way to settle differences is through violence. And that punching up to the man may sometimes need to get bloody. Frey explores thoughtfully the world of fantasy cons and fan fiction, digs into representation and intention, argues through fetishization and tropes, doubling back to stab at the patriarchy and white men again and again in various ways—We exist for ourselves and we’re worth it is the message Frey is repeating over and over again, whether you’re talking about the portrayal of women, POC or LGBT (and probably various others I glossed over) in fiction.
In a way, it’s a difficult book to get through. There’s anger and hurt to work through, there’s fear and sorrow and a harrowing scene that made me want to cry, and then there’s that whole bittersweet ending; the finality of parting countered by a sense of reunion, the regret of an unchangeable past amidst a bright hope for tomorrow. In the vernacular of our times, when we’ve lost all ability to word: ALL THE FEELS.
Note: A special shout out to J.M. Frey who let me read a super early copy of this book and leave comments!
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