Hush (Dylan Farrow)

Hush is the first novel in the Hush series by Dylan Farrow.
Finished on: 2.7.2021

Shae lives at the edge of a small village with her mother. They are just about tolerated in town since Shae’s brother died of the Blot, a highly contagious illness transmitted by ink which is why reading and writing are outlawed. The only people who don’t seem to fear that Shae might still be carrying the Blot are her best friend Fiona and Mads, the neighbor boy who may be more. But not even with them Shae has shared the fact that something is wrong with her, that her dreams and her embroidery are bleeding into reality. When the Bards come to town, Shae hopes to receive their blessing and healing, just like the entire town. While the town receives rain from them, Shae isn’t so lucky. And after they are gone, Shae’s mother is murdered, leaving her without hope and with very few options. So she risks it all and travels to the High House, where the Bards live, hoping to get help from them.

Hush is a pretty good read, albeit not deviating far from young adult fantasy standards. As it is being touted as a feminist book, I was expecting a little more from it in that regard, but I did like reading it overall.

The book cover showing a starry sky over the ruins of a castle overlooking the sea.

Having recently read Shadow and Bone, the “usualness” about Hush stands out a little more to me than it would have otherwise. But the narratives here and there share quite a few parallels, and those are elements that they share with many other young adult fantasies as well. If that’s what you’re looking for at the moment, go for it, you won’t be disappointed. But personally, I was hoping for a bit more originality.

That is not to say that there is nothing new here. I really liked the way Shae uses her embroidery. It is such a feminine skill that is rarely acknowledged as being creative and kick-ass, so that is nice. The Blot is also a really good concept.

Maybe the embroidery angle, plus the fact that there is one servant in High House who is committed to helping Shae because girls gotta stick together, are the reasons that the book is marketed as feminist, but honestly, that’s really not enough for me. I mean, it’s a nice start, and maybe we will get some more complex female characters in the sequel(s?) (maybe even gender-non-conforming, queer characters!), but in this one I didn’t see a lot of that.

Quite to the contrary, there is a lot of tropey bitchiness between the female characters and most of the book is preoccupied anyway with Shae’s romantic life (with men, of course) and the usual love “triangle”. Let me roll my eyes a little at this point.

That being said, Hush is a good read, quite a page-turner and does end on such a cliffhanger that my interest for the next in the series is piqued. Given that it is Farrow’s debut novel, I am optimistic that she grows as a writer with the second novel – and maybe the next one will make up for some of the things that didn’t work so well here.

Summarizing: good enough to continue.

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