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A Silence in the Deep by KB Hoyle

A Silence in the Deep by KB HoyleSummary: A reimagining of the Little Mermaid. 

We all need some lightness in our lives. I tend to read heavy books, and I do this because I like them. But we also need lighter books to balance and rest, especially amid a global pandemic.

A Silence in the Deep is the latest book by KB Hoyle. I have never met her in person, but I digitally met her in the Christ and Pop Culture Facebook member group years ago. Since then, I have read her ten previous books and now this one. (She is currently co-writing a novel with Project CoNarrative).

KB Hoyle’s books are all well developed, expertly plotted with depth to them that allows for real enjoyment by adults, even though they are pitched to middle grade or young adult readers. Despite her skill, her last publisher went under, and she reclaimed all of her books and has self-published newly edited versions of them over the past two years.

This latest book is only available (for now) at Swoonreads, a project of MacMillian that takes submissions from authors and gives the reader community free access to unpublished books for feedback and potential publishing. If I have just purchased a new ereader that allowed me to load the book, (you have to read via an app, so it has to be on a computer, or an iOS or Android device and my new reader is android based.)

A Silence in the Deep is a reimagining of the Little Mermaid. The human is a princess, the beloved only daughter of the King and a bedridden Queen. The merman is the youngest child and only son of the King. He is in line to be the King’s military right hand, but also to be the apprentice storyteller to his Grandmother.

Breeder Cycle by KB Hoyle (all four books)

Breeder Cycle by KB HoyleSummary: A dystopian trilogy (with a prequel) that is both an enjoyable read and prescient. 

I have not been reading much fiction lately. But with my brain distracted by real life and less time since my kids are not in school right now, it felt like a perfect time to pick up KB Hoyle’s Dystopian series. About 18 months ago I read Hoyle’s fantasy series that started with The Six. I read the series quickly and loved the books. They were certainly in my list of favorite fiction books that I read in 2018.

Once I have a feel for fiction authors, I tend to try to read them completely blind. I had not read any of the descriptions of the series before picking it up. And as I finished each one, I just picked up the next without writing a post. At this point, I do not think it makes sense to write individual responses because this is a single story, told over four books.

The setting is roughly 200 years after two different mass devastation events. There is a single world government that is trying to repopulate the earth after the majority of the population died in a massive famine, a wide-scale pandemic or a third event that I will not reveal. The main character at the start of the first book is one of the breeders, Seventeen (later Pria). Other characters are quickly introduced and many of them continue through the series.

I am not going to give away plot details but a couple of notes. KB Hoyle has great plots. Hints are given, but I did not know where the story was going to end up as I was going along. I can also guess that a few people will be disappointed in how some of the first two books end, but remember, this is a single large story arc, keep reading.

The Bone Whistle by KB Hoyle (The Gateway Chronicles Book 6)

The Bone Whistle by KB Hoyle (The Gateway Chronicles Book 6)Summary: The final chapter. 

Writing about the final book of a series is always difficult. I assume most people reading this have not necessarily read the previous five books in the series. (But you should and they are The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread, The Enchanted, and The Scroll). I want to give enough detail to interest you in reading the series, but not include a bunch of spoilers. So like my review of The Scroll, I am splitting this review into two parts. The first part is my general, non-spoiler thoughts. The second part will be more discussion about the book directly and assume you have read the previous books.

After having finished the whole series, I am even more impressed about the construction of the books and the plotting. This is a series that has layers and references and subtlety so that it can be read multiple times. The characters grow and mature, not suddenly or because the plot suddenly needs them to, but naturally in a way that we can see as readers. And while this is a book that is written for young adults, as a well read adult, I was kept engaged throughout the series. There were no weak books.

The Bone Whistle is the final in the series. It reaches a conclusion. As a warning to the reader, this book is structured a bit differently. One of the plot points is that Darcy forgets something and only recovers her memories slowly later in the book. We as the readers do not know what that is, so there are places where we readers are a bit in the dark. I actually went back and re-read the end of the Scroll because it had been a few weeks since I had finished it and based on what I was reading at the start of The Bone Whistle, I thought that I had forgotten the end of the Scroll. I had not, The Bone Whistle jumps into the middle of something and we are supposed to be confused. That will happen a couple times in the book. Go back and re-read if you need to (and I did in a couple places) but then keep reading, the plot will resolve itself.

The Scroll by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #5)

The Scroll by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #5)Takeaway: Well crafted stories are a joy!

The Scroll is the fifth book in the series. It is not possible to discuss the book without giving away some spoilers from earlier books. So if you have not read the earlier books, you may want to stop and go read my reviews (in order) of The Six, The Oracle, The White Thread, and The Enchanted.

Part of what I like about good fiction, and I think this series is a great example of good fiction, is that there is more than surface level meaning. Real ideas are being discussed. Hoyle is a Christian, but this is not being written as ‘Christian Fiction’ in the sense of pat answers and veiled presentations of the gospel. But as Christian fiction in the way that Tolkien was writing Christian fiction, with well written, complex stories that present the world well, but are influenced by the Christianity of the author.

The most obvious top level idea in the book that is likely influenced by Christianity is the prophecy. The Six were called Alitheia. Almost as soon as they arrived they learned of the prophecy that they were thought to be the fulfillment of. That prophecy included the marriage of Darcy (from our world) to Tellius (then Prince, now King Alitheia). Neither Tellius nor Darcy as young teens, were interested in marriage or being told who they had to marry. The Christian concept of election and God’s action in the world through prophecy has a long and complicated history. But as Darcy and Tellius are around one another over the course of a couple of books they realize they actually do love one another. They do want to get married. And even if it was foretold, they have made the choice on their own as part of who they are.

Darcy, in the first book, was tricked and captured by Tselloch, the bad guy of the series. Tselloch is from a third world, not Earth or Alitheia. He is trying to control both Earth and Alitheia by building gateways between the world and gaining control of them. Humans can give themselves over to Tselloch and become Tsellochim. After months of torture, Darcy had decided to give herself over and touch Tselloch, but was rescued at the last second. However in the immediate seconds before rescue she did touch Tscelloch and that touch, normally enough for her to have become a Tsellochim instantly, has haunted her since. Most people become Tsellochim immediately, but Darcy has spent the next four books feeling effects as the touch crawls up her arm, but not fully being given over to the change.

The Enchanted by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicle #4)

The Enchanted by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicle #4)Summary: On the fourth return to Alitheia, Darcy realizes she has fallen in love with Prince (soon to be King) Tellius. But each of their own desires to protect the other keeps them apart.

The Gateway Chronicles has reminded me of the advantages of waiting until a series is done before starting it. That is not particularly helpful for the authors and publishers who need the sales to keep the series going. But for the reader, not needing to wait a year between books is really nice. The Gateway Chronicles are being re-released this summer by the author independently after the rights reverted back to her. KB Hoyle has lightly edited and rereleased the books about every two weeks this summer.

The Enchanted is the fourth (of six) in the series and my favorite so far. I have commented in a number of other reviews that I read for characters more than action and The Enchanted, while still having action, is much more about character development and relationships than action. The characters are older now and the maturity shows, although they are still teenagers.

In earlier books, characters often thought about themselves first and made bad decisions because of it. In The Enchanted, the bad decisions are primarily about trying to protect others. The reader can see why the bad decisions are made, because we can read international motivations, but the other characters are still hurt by what they view as (and sometimes is) betrayal.

The White Thread by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #3)

The White Thread by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #3)Summary: The last book ended in tragedy. Now Darcy, and the others want to fix their error.

The problem with reviewing a series is that the longer into the series, the harder it is to discuss the book without giving away important plot points from earlier books that are essential to the describing the story for the later books.

I am going to still be vague here, but I may give up on that by the next book. My short version review is that I have very much enjoyed this series so far and I stayed up until 2 AM earlier this week to finish up The White Thread.

KB Hoyle continues to play with young adult fantasy conventions and leave a ton of references to other books for the readers that are probably a bit older and more widely read. The White Thread is ultimately a quest book like most fantasy stories. But in that quest there is a clear reference to the third Narnia book as well as the Odyssey and other quests. As some point I want to ask the author if she is dropping in these references intentionally to lead the reader somewhere or if she is writing the story and some of the reference sneak in initially and she just goes with it. I would guess that these are pretty intentional. But I have read plenty of interviews with authors that have suggested that many of the references that others read into their books were not put there by them. (In response to this review, KB Hoyle and I had a good conversation about references and allusions in writing. I am adding a paragraph at the end of the review because of that conversation.)

At the end of The Oracle, Darcy was forced to pay a price for the answer to her question, that price was significant. She spent the whole year at home trying to figure out how she might solve the problem. But there are two other problems that develop at home. First at the end of the Oracle, the boy at camp that knows about the magical world, but is not with The Six because he appears to be a supporter of the evil ruler disappears. Darcy gains a new level of empathy for him because she observes his father beating him.

The Oracle by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #2)

The Oracle by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #2)Summary: Does the prophecy (which says that the six will overcome the evil) really mean what it seems to mean.

Young Adult fantasy is a popular category for both adults and teens/pre-teens. It is common to ridicule it, but there is something comforting about YA Fantasy. As I have thought about it previously, and written before, part of what is different the last couple decades in the Fantasy world is that clear separation between good and evil is no long popular. It is not that older fantasy writers like Tolkien or Lewis made all of their characters one dimensional or perfect, but that even in showing the weaknesses of Edmund in the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe or Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, there was a sense of the weaknesses and wrongness of decisions were character defects and things to be overcome or repented for or at the least, part of the reason for the necessity of a balanced group.

Much, but not all, of modern adult oriented fantasy like Lev Grossman’s Magician series or VE Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic have blurred the lines between good and evil. There are good reasons for that, you need conflict, and you have to push boundaries in genre fiction because even though conventions exist, flaunting them is one way to get noticed. YA fiction then tends to be one of the places that adults can return to for a clearer sense what it means to fight evil.

In the second book of the Gateway Chronicles, the six return to the fantasy world of Alitheia. Evil was pushed back at the end of the last book, but not defeated. The six are all excited to return, but Darcy, the main protagonist, is uncomfortable with the prophecy that has foretold her marriage to Prince Tellius. Tellius is just as uncomfortable with the idea and Darcy starts to understand how knowing of the prophecy from birth has impacted Tellius’ life.

The Six by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #1)

The Six by KB Hoyle (Gateway Chronicles #1)Summary: Young adult fantasy that knows the conventions of the genre, but isn’t reduced to them.

Thirteen year old Darcy Pennington doesn’t have any friends. Her real love in life is horses. For the past several years she has gone to a summer camp dedicated to riding horses. But this year, both because of financial constraints and to be together as a family, her family has decided to go on vacation together, to a family camp. Darcy is dreading it. She is dreading it in part because two other kids from her neighborhood that she knows, but does not really like will be there as well.

Darcy begins to like the camp despite herself. The area is beautiful and the kids are fairly friendly, although as an introvert, Darcy does have a problem finding space to just be alone. As she gets acquainted with the space and the people, there is a sense of magic, and not just in the figurative sense.

I do not want to give away too many details of the story, but this is a young adult fantasy that has some parallels to CS Lewis’ Narnia books. Eventually another world is involved, and a prophesy, and gifts and talents, and an evil ruler. Genre writing is difficult, good genre book follow enough conventions to be part of the genre without being reduced to conventions. Good books often drop subtle hints and references to earlier books that helped to define or illustrate those conventions. Bad genre books blindly follow the conventions without adding anything new to the conversations within the genre. One of the things that some people love about genre writing is the ability to ‘check out’ as you are reading because the book become so conventional that no real thought is required.