Title: The Silver Tide (The Copper Cat #3)
Author: Jen Williams
Release Date: 25th February 2016
Jen Williams is at it again. She’s only gone and—yet again—written an utterly perfect book, hasn’t she? It’s no secret how much I love the Copper Cat books (see? And I told you so), but finishing a series is always where things get a little trickier. How will it end? Will she nail it? What if it’s not as good as the others and I’m left with a gaping void with no more Wydrin to fill it?
All very good questions.
Thankfully, being the absolutely stellar author she is, Williams brought the stories of the Black Feather Three to an end with all the deft skill of someone who can’t possibly be just about to launch the final book of her first trilogy. Impossible. There must be shenanigans, because she’s too good.
And she’s good because she gets it. Gets what, you ask? Well, that would be everything. If we’re being technical, the Copper Cat books are inclusive, feminist, and diverse. They’re also what you’d get if you bottled joy, the laugher of unicorns and the sound of a cat’s purr and distilled it all down into an uncannily regular-looking ink and proceeded to print the books with that—and spilt a little mead on the page before binding. (They use special, virtual unicorns for the ebooks.)
The Silver Tide has a lot to do as part of the trilogy, in that it has several characters and their individual story arcs to bring to a close, as well as presenting a whole new adventure for the finale, as is the MO of the Copper Cat books. We’re used to being treated to a front-seat ride as tagalongs on a brand new adventure with each book. It had to be good. It had to be big.
So we have our biggest adventure yet, new additions to the cast (and in the shape of a certain redhead’s mother, no less!), and we’re casting anchor towards previously unexplored lands in this vast world of magic and the remnants of old, leftover gods. Our Black Feather three still carry the scars from their previous adventure, but this time, some run deeper than others. Whilst Wydrin and Frith accept their relationship and grow closer, Sebastian, troubled by his link with the Brood Sisters and their ilk, sinks deeper into himself. And following the events of The Iron Ghost and his work with Joah Demonsworn, Frith’s gaze is cast ever inwards, to the darker parts of himself he has begun to fear so intensely. Needless to say, when Devinia the Red suggests a job for the Black Feather Three, eager to return to the normalcy before the business of waking gods and the power of mages, Wydrin is all too eager to accept.
The thing about Williams is that she knows fantasy. It’s like some percentage of her blood is made up of actual fantasy or something, which is probably why she can, in a way that seems totally effortless, invite the new, the classic and the more fantastical whimsy of SFF together on the page and make it shine. Make it all play nicely together with only minimal hitting over the head with plastic swords. There aren’t many writers on my shelves who really go there with the classic elements of fantasy—its monsters and big, flashy magic and incredibly unlikely happenings and whatnots. There’s a self-consciousness that slipped into fantasy somewhere, as if realism and accuracy were the new goals rather than whatever fantastical, exciting madness the writer could dream up.
Williams does not suffer from this. Williams writes her wonderful, unlikely and bold fantasy as if she either completely missed the self-consciousness memo, or rather, simply tossed it in the bin whilst swigging mead and cackling gleefully over the keys as yet another god flies over the page.
The Silver Tide is not a book afraid of adventure and of going out with a bang. The stakes are higher than they have been—the highest possible!—and yet at its heart, the Copper Cat books are really just about friendship, possibility and finding oneself. The Black Feather Three have faced practically everything known to man throughout the trilogy, including the darkest and most buried aspects of themselves—and they’re still not done.
Ultimately, Williams writes about people and what they get up to when left to their lives, going about their usual business—until they screw up (however indirectly) or get dragged into something bigger than themselves, and need to make a decision: to give a damn or to not give a damn. And the additional question that follows: now what?
Relatable characters and understandable issues. Power and responsibility. Hope and trust and loyalty and friendship. Fear of the other and acceptance. Self-acceptance and forgiveness. From the Brood Sisters, to the cold-skinned Narhl, to demons and possessed children and banished knights cast out for loving the wrong way, to headstrong redheads with mothers to impress and a fear of needing someone, to damaged young lords with a fear of an inner darkness and pirates who could have made better decisions about where to loot—The Silver Tide, as with the whole trilogy, goes deep into the very hearts of people and what makes people, people.
Ye gods, as Wydrin would say—what else is there to say that isn’t simply “read this book—read all these books”? The future of fantasy is in these books: here, writers like Williams nod in respectful homage to all the things that made fantasy good and exciting and full of joy and fun and even a little unlikely, whilst writing for the world we have now, taking and adapting all these classic ideas and welcoming them into a new era of fantasy. We can have dragons and gods and pirates on the same stage as feminism and bold, obvious stands against toxic masculinity. We can subvert gender and sexuality and romance. We can have cross-racial romance and treasure-hunting pirates. We can have everything without one needing to yell louder than the other(s) to be heard.
Williams says we can have it all. And I believe her.
The Silver Tide isn’t just a gloriously riveting adventure, filled with dragons and pirates, magic and gods, it’s also setting the bar for other fantasy that follows. Fantasy is so broad a thing, so vast a collection of anything and everything that we need to stop writing and reading inside these invisible little boxes that came free with the memo Williams disregarded. Fun and fantastic and yes, spattered with just a touch of (the best kinds of) whimsy, The Silver Tide and its trilogy companions are deep, thoughtful and intelligent; they are books to make you feel and to make you think, and not least of all, to make you laugh out loud and do those little fist-pumps in the air.