Last year, while I was trying in vain to recruit her to BookMooch, she told me she was dying to find a copy of this book called Silverlock by John Myers Myers. I was curious, and ended up adding it to my wishlist because it sounded so intriguing. I totally forgot about it until Triccie put up a copy in her inventory during a special promo for local moochers last February.
Tin wanted to borrow it the last time I saw her, so I decided to bump it up on my TBR so I could lend it to her.
I started the book around Black Saturday; I read about a third then I wasn’t able to read all last week because I was working on a book project. Then I read another third during Dianne’s graduation, and read the remaining hundred-plus pages for the 24-hour read-a-thon.
Silverlock (book #59 for 2009) , written in 1949, is an epic fantasy about A. Clarence Shandon, an American who goes off for a vacation but ends up getting shipwrecked, and finds himself in the Commonwealth of Letters, a land that challenges everything he has ever known, populated by literary characters.
Shandon is dubbed as Silverlock by his guide to the Commonwealth, Golias (who embodies Orpheus, and perhaps some other storytelling characters) due to a streak of white in his black hair.
Shandon (occasionally with Golias, but more because of his own pigheadedness) gets into a lot of adventures and misadventures in his journey throughout the Commonwealth: he is turned into a pig by Circe, gets chased down by a pack of cannibals, gets involved in a love triangle because of Puck’s tomfoolery, joins Robin Hood and his merry men, celebrates with Beowulf over his triumph with Grendel, has tea with the Mad Hatter and the March Hare; and steals Huck Finn’s raft; and runs into Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Hester from The Scarlet Letter, and Rosalind and Orlando from As You Like It.
It’s hard to explain the plot exactly, because that would take the fun out of it. Just think of it as a richer, expanded version of Shrek with more obscure characters or a more outlandish Jasper Fforde novel — more fantasy than mystery. And with a lot of songs in between.
For the most part, it was a good read, but I ranked it my least favorite in the read-a-thon, because I was pressured to finish the book. I’m not a hardcore fantasy fan, and the story was a bit more fantastic for my taste, so it was more difficult for me to get through it. Unless books with made-up maps and strange names are normal fare for you, the book is best read at leisure, because you’ll need your concentration to keep track of the characters while attempting to identify them, or you’ll get as lost as Shandon is in this strange world.
I like the message the book leaves with the reader, about the transforming power of books and reading. Shandon Silverlock certainly doesn’t start out as hero material — cowardly, rude, chauvinistic, lecherous, and even downright annoying. But as he goes through his journey in the Commonwealth, he picks up values from the literary ideals that he meets, and in the end, he becomes a hero that deserves the title role in the story.
This is the sort of book, I think, that gets better with every reading, especially after you’ve read more literature that will allow you to identify other characters and references you weren’t able to identify before. I don’t think I even recognized a fourth of the characters discussed in the book, making succeeding readings a definite possibility. I think I’ll read this again in five years or so, to see where it takes me.
Meanwhile, I’m loaning it to Tintin later :)
My copy: 2005 Ace trade paperback, mooched from Triccie. I want the hardcover edition with the built-in companion.
My rating: 4/5 stars