Canvember 2013: Silverwing

25 Nov

Silverwing (Book 1 in the Silverwing Series)

By Kenneth Oppel

Published: April 24, 1997 (2010 reprint edition)

Company: Harper Trophy Canada

Language: English


I know I said I was going to review The Silvered by Tanya Huff to wrap up Canvember, but my friend Sarah asked if I could at some point talk about HER favourite children’s book. So for her I will talk about one of the best-selling and multiple award winning children’s book: Silverwing.

If I was to compare this to another series, I would say it is similar to the self-titled book Redwall but even that is not a completely accurate comparison since the character are anthropomorphic animals in Redwall while the characters in Silverwing are simply animals that can talk to each other, but retain their animal features. Despite this, I feel the tone of both books are similar since the animals are dealing with the threat of confrontation and war from other animals. Even with the threat of this confrontation and war, the tone through the two books are light and never gets down on itself, making it appropriate for a children to read.

Despite the animals being the characters in the book, they do encounter humans and human society. The animals seems to know bits and pieces of what humans are and about human society, but do not fully understand it and do not understand human speech. When a human is mentioned to be talking, their voice is described as a low, deep, slow sound that the animals cannot comprehend. That makes it clear that the reason why we can understand the animals talking to each other is because we are understanding it through the main character Shade, and without that understanding, we would only be able to ‘hear’ strange noises. The animals don’t have any reason to learn about human speech patterns as they have their own lives/society to worry and focus on.

There are no elements of magic or mysticism: the events that happen are based within the boundaries of reality and what the creatures can and cannot do. This makes it a bit different from The Secret of NIMH that has anthropomorphic animals [like Redwall], interact with humans and human society [like Silverwing] but the animals experience extended intelligence, such as the ability to read and operate human machinery, extended life, and a magical amulet.

Another nice feature of the book are the simplistic black and white illustrations done by David Frankland. This would be a nice thing to have if the book was being read aloud to children in a group setting.

I found it interesting that the chief elder of the Silverwing tribe, Frieda, is a female and that other elders of the tribe are female as well. Since the females & children live separately from the males when they are not hibernating, I wonder if there is a change in power dynamic when both groups rejoin in the winter or if the females normally that up the leadership roles. I am not even certain what the males do during the period of separation. It could be explained in the book and I simply do not remember it but I find it to be odd.  

I found the pacing of the story to be rather good and steady and I did not want to put the book down once I started to read it. Definitely a must read for anyone at any age.

Questions? Suggestions?? Feel free to put it down in the comments below. One more post left for Canvember 2013!


Posted by on November 25, 2013 in Canvember, Review


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4 responses to “Canvember 2013: Silverwing

  1. smhelland

    November 26, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    Haha, so happy you reviewed this one! And even happier that you enjoyed it! If I remember correctly, the bats have a religion based on a goddess named Nocturna (I think?) so that might explain why the elders are female.

  2. mdickeson

    November 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    I never read this when I was younger and I really don’t know why — I was a Redwall kid, quite obsessed for a couple years, and I enjoyed the Rats of Nimh as well, so even though Silverwing’s quite different in some ways it should have been exactly my thing. I was also an animal nerd, so the realism would have been a bonus. I seriously will get around to this one; I’m glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reminding me!

    I also hear the vampire bat villain is creepy awesome. Good villain’s always a bonus.

    Apparently Oppel has a steampunk airship series too, along the lines of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan — only Oppel’s came first and does not include the biopunk elements. Starts with Airborn. Sounds bad-ass.

    It just so happens I’m about half-way through Tanya Huff’s The Silvered. Finding it quite fun. I’m not certain how I’m meant to be taking some of the gender politics, and it’s all a little … furry, but the storyline’s enjoyable, and the anti-war themes and humanization of the enemy larded through the book work really well with the fantasy elements.

    • Cookie

      November 26, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      I never read this or the rest of the series when I was younger either but I did read Redwall. Sarah pointed me in the direction of this one, so all the thanks goes to her. ALL BOW BEFORE THE MIGHTY SARAH!

      Ah yeah!! The villain is super creepy. It probably creeped out a lot of kids when they read it. Get a parent who’s good at voices and this is the stuff nightmares are made of.

      I was checking out his website and saw he had some other interesting titles. The covers looked good anyways but I haven’t heard anything about them. I might look into it and pick some of them up through the library.

      That’s good that you have been enjoying The Silvered. I wonder if it will just be a one-off or if she’ll build a series around it. Without having read the book and not sure what’s happening, she may be playing around with the gender politics on purpose to question our own or be critical of it. Or she could be totally unaware of it. Furry?? Like furry FURRY?? O.o I do not know how to take this news.

  3. mdickeson

    November 26, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    Yes, indeed! I too heard about the series — and the creepy villain — from Sarah [I’d heard of them when I was a kid, but had forgotten].

    I don’t think I’ve heard about a Silvered sequel one way or the other, but at the half-way point I could certainly see the plot being resolved satisfactorily within this book, but not the broader power imbalance in the fantasy world the story’s set in, that’s too big. So I’m sure there’s scope for a sequel.

    Well, it’s a werewolf novel, you see. And the social protocol of Werewolflandia — not its actual name — is heavily based around perpetuating the werewolf pack lines. And so several of the characters have feelings. Which is tiresome enough in itself. But then these feelings are also about wolves. So I don’t know if it’s “furry” per say — I dunno what “furry furry” constitutes [I do not wish to know; if you know, do not tell me], but it’s close enough to be a little weird. The fantasy culture is in other ways mildly interesting, though, and when I think about it de-wolfing it would render these other social dynamics less complex. I’ll be interested to hear what you think if you read it!



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