Cover Image: The Story of Silence

The Story of Silence

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Member Reviews

Silence, born a girl, raised a boy. The laws of the land that only males could inherit therefore Silence MUST be a boy. I had never heard of this medieval poem so this retelling was shiny brand new to me from all angles. We open in an old tavern with a bard telling the story of Silence and we go back to Silence's birth, why the law came into play that only males can inherit and Silence's life.

This is brilliant, different, unique (I felt) going back to a time when there is war, inheriting through marriage, birth, titles, land. Being raised as a boy, knowing you are different but not exactly why and living your life a lie, trying to constantly prove your worth. It is emotive in places, I really felt for Silence. Nothing was good enough, just wanting approval, only wanting to be a knight. Silence is such a good person, kind, honest and it is almost constantly used against them.

I don't generally read books like this and I am glad I got a chance to, historical fiction (I am coming more around and enjoying this genre), fantasy, gender vs sex, adventure, friendship, relationships, deceit, betrayal and even a wizard! There is just so much and for me it was fresh, different, new. I read a lot of books across genres but this was really different. I plan to hunt down the poem and have a read at it. When reading this I did find myself pondering life/situations for Silence then and for those in the LGBTQIA community now. I don't know if that was one of the authors goals in writing this but it certainly left me deep in thought. Sometimes you don't realise how much you take for granted purely because of how you were born/raised. 4.5/5 for me this time, this was my first time reading this author, I will be looking at their other work and other books in this kind of vein. It is thought provoking read and I think I will be thinking about this long after I put it down.
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A captivating tale with lyrical prose exploring the gender boundaries of a thirteenth-century French chivalric romance. As a cis reader, I'd recommend exploring own-voice reviewers but the issue of sex versus gender seemed to be handled with nuance and care.
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Hmm. The writing is great but I think this is not a book for everyone. People might  struggle to finish it. It's a tad too long! But very atmospheric and the setting leaps off the pages!
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Thank you for the opportunity to read this book. 

If you love traditional tales, Arthurian legends and noble Knights then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

Inspired by a C13th French poem, The Story of Silence tells the tale of a person who wants more from their life than what is merely expected from them. A tale of courage, adventure and heart, Myers crafts a traditional tale, which could have almost been lifted straight from the archives, and gently injects it with a modern perspective. 

The story itself was a little on the steady side for me, however this is faithful to and in keeping with the style and era of the poem that inspired the novel. 

If you're looking for sensitive LGBTQ representation within a traditional tale and to escape to beautiful Cornwall to meet dragons and wizards,  and even travel with a bard or two, then this is perfect for you.
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Thank you for the opportunity to review this book.

The Story of Silence is a retelling of a medieval poem called ‘Le Roman de Silence’.
Not being familiar with this poem, I’m not really how much of the story is the authors version or taken from the original.

I love that this book is set in Cornwall, it’s refreshing reading something that’s set in the UK/somewhere I’ve been and not America!

I did not find myself growing attached to any of the characters, which was a shame, and the development just seemed non-existent except for the main character, Silence.

The pacing of the book was a bit slow for my liking but I can understand the authors decision for this and some readers will probably enjoy being able to take the time and enjoy the story.

I loved the concept of the book but the slow pacing and lack of character development just wasn’t my style.

However if you’re looking for a fantasy book that handles LGBTQ+ incredibly well, and has knights then give this one a go!

This book is definitely unique and did make for a nice historic read.
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This is like everything I ever wanted from an Arthurian retelling but never knew I needed: preposterous, adventurous, full of heart and with a main character whose difficult circumstances and incredible journey are lovingly described.

Myers really captured the feel of tales from this era; it reminded me of a class I took in medieval German literature (which, incidentally, I hated - but that was entirely the lecturer's fault. The actual literature I adored!) with its occasional sheer absurdity.

At the heart of it, The Story of Silence is about gender, and it was really fascinating to learn that it was based on a real 13th century tale, discovered in 1911. And the story is, of course, about Silence, whose determination to be a knight, resilience, and sheer goodness were honestly just delightful to read.

I gave this four stars because the pace felt a little meandering at times, but overall I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for an Arthurian-era tale with what feels like a very modern take on gender.
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A fairytale full of Knights of honour, dragons and bards stuck in darkened inns where strangers lurk in corners, The Story of Silence reimagines a classic story within a story, of travelling tales and the ideas of gender versus sex, and acceptance of yourselfbover what is expected. 

In some respects this felt like a classic story, but it had so much within that needed to be said. Gender roles, and how they are perceived in society play a large role throughout the story, as we see Silence struggle to be accepted the way they want to be. They want the respect that is given to men, but also be known as female without really knowing how they should behave. Silence as a character is wonderfully developed, with complicated feelings and internal struggles that are sensitively and lovingly portrayed. To see them grow throughout the story really was a highlight, as well as watching them learn than they can be and behave exactly the way they want to, and not be constrained by society or family. Silence is at their best when left to flourish. 

The writing is also really compelling, told within a traditional format that lends itself to the popular tropes in fantasy, yet still managing to feel fresh and unique. Sometimes all a plot needs is a simple structure like this to really propel the story, especially when the characters are as interesting as Silence. The plot doesn't need much additional work. 

Highly original characters and a great modern update on a more traditional historical fantasy. Perfect for lovers of Knights and dragons with brilliant LGBTQIA+ rep.
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This was a strange and beautiful fairytale/ fable about a transgender knight based on a little known 13th C French poem. Interestingly the original poem proves that rigid constructs aroud gender are a far more recent invention that most of us realise. I found this a little slow going but beautifully realised and the fact that it included an incredibly intelligent discourse on biological sex versus gender was a big plus.
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This book sent me on google search rabbit hole, researching queerness during the medieval period, and it was genuinely fascinating.  But unfortunately, I think that I preferred it to the book itself.  Some of my favourite books are retellings of popular myths, think The Bear and the Nightingale and The Golem and the Djinn, but this just didn’t do it for me.  The story and the characters were all very one dimensional.  I am not sure if this was an attempt not to diverge too far from the original material, but I just felt like it let down the story.  Even the main character, Silence, felt like a cardboard cutout.  This story had so much potential, and I am genuinely grateful for introducing me to the topic, but that's all.
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Thank you to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for providing me with this e-arc in exchange for an honest review. I also have the beautiful, signed and exclusive Hardback edition produced by Goldsboro books. 

The Story of Silence is a modern retelling of a poem called Silence, originally written in 1286. It begins with a bard in a tavern, they meet a stranger called Silence and the novel centres around the story that Silence tells the bard. 
The world Silence is born into has laws that ensure women cannot inherit lands or titles from their parents. Silence’s father declares them his son, whether this is true or not. The story is fascinating, and delves into deep discussions that are very relevant and shouldn’t be shied away from. The language of all the characters flows beautifully throughout the novel and gives a steady pace to a story of centering around a beautiful character. 

Alex Meyers truly captures the internal struggle faced by Silence and their journey of finding out they’re a female when having lived their whole life as a man. They are forced to fight against their own body in their journey to become a knight. Whilst the book is beautiful and I struggle to find fault with the character development and storyline, there are some elements of semi-heavy exposition that some readers might not like. However, I found it not at all overwhelming and necessary to allow the reader to be sufficiently clued in on the background to be able to read the story that follows. 

A fantasy novel steeped in history but with a fresh and current take on the characters and the story complete with a wizard- cough, Merlin, cough and a dragon… what more could you want?
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I really liked the idea of "The Story of Silence", but, especially towards the end, it just didn't live up to my expectations. 

The pacing was somewhat odd, apart from the protagonist none of the characters really undergo development and the ending just didn't work for me. 

Still, I really liked the concept and most of the elements worked on their own, but the end product just  didn't really come together in my opinion.
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I absolutely loved this book! I loved that it was set in Cornwall, and as someone who has been there a lot, it meant that I knew all the places the travelled to! I love the character development in this and thought that the book portrayed some very important messages incredibly well!
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Thank you to Harper Collins UK and NetGalley for providing me with this e-arc in exchange for an honest review. 

I was unaware until after reading this book that the author, Alex Myers is a trans man, a trans advocate and a gender identity educator. This only added clarity to why the original story the book is based upon, Le Roman de Silence, which dates back to the 13th Century and is part of the later Arthurian catalogue was of interest to Myers. Myers took the original story and crafted it into an exploration of how society’s gender expectations influence self-identity.

The book itself is written as a story within a story based on Arthurian takes and legends. Always enjoyable, but now taken to the next level as the knight is more than just a knight. 

The pace of the story itself is considered and provides sufficient backstory to give the reader the required background to snuggle in and settle down to hear a beautiful, and nuanced tale that firmly encourages engagement, thought, and consideration. 

Silence is born into a world where the law prevents women from inheriting and Silence’s father takes the decision to declare his first born child a son, irrespective of their born sex. Thus, we meet Silence and witness their life from birth to the telling of the story. 

Silence is a beautiful character, embodying the infinite argument of nature vs nurture, striving to achieve his own desires through hard work, good temperament, honesty and sheer determination. 

The depths of this discussion are emphasised through Silence’s own internal arguments and strife as they face so many challenges, including believing yourself to be one thing and finding you are instead another. When Silence is told that he is a girl, but must continue to live as a boy, the internal struggle is emphasised and maintained to show Silence’s battle with his body and nature to become a knight. 

Silence faces all this against the floods of gender stereotypes that dominate society; women are disloyal, lustful, feeble of mind, body and spirit, meek and docile. This is totally bewildering for him as he is living amongst men, undertaking physical feats as he trains to be a knight. 

Silence is forced into a position where his whole being is considered unnatural and forced to live in fear of being found out. 

Throughout the story the language and pronouns are used to perfection and ultimately as the reader we are fortunate enough to hear both the original ending and that of the book. This only adds to the strength and impact of the story, and whilst this isn’t my preferred type of story, it is one I have truly fallen in love with. 

If you’re looking for a fantasy book that turns tropes on their head and delves into history, making it fresh and wholly into the 21st century, definitely read this book. And yes, there is a dragon and Merlín too!
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The Story of Silence is a retelling of a medieval poem called Silence, believed to be originally written in 1286. It was written in Old French and discovered in 1911. It starts with a bard in a tavern, who meets a stranger called Silence. He asks Silence about their life, and the book is the story Silence tells. Their father, Lord Cador, married the heiress of the Earl of Cornwall, and King Ewan has decreed that inheritance can only travel through male heirs. Unless Cador has a son, on his death, Cornwall will be returned to King Ewan. So when Cador's wife gives birth, Cador decides to raise his daughter Silence as a son. Silence is sent to grow up at Ringmar, a hunting lodge, with only his nursemaid and seneschal for company — and the only people who know the true secret of Silence's Nature.

I have read several books in the past in a medieval setting, of a girl who pretends to be a boy to train as a Knight, such as the the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce and Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. But in those, the characters all knew and acknowledged that they were women. In The Story of Silence, while Nature has made Silence a woman, they see themselves as a man in every other way. This made it a really interesting read and there are a lot of themes throughout the book about Nature vs Nurture and what really makes you, you.

"Nature is but the mould that forms us," the nymph said. "Nature might have given you delicate hands, but if you work all day with wood, what happens? ...We can form ourselves, through our labour, through our love, through our desire. We can form our own selves, despite what Nature intends."

I really liked Silence, who has taken all of the stories of Knighthood to heart and is honourable, chivalrous and honest. He is given advice by a Knight when struggling with the pell — Silence learns to hold the sword differently because he is thin and long-limbed. He also struggles to use the lance, having a different body shape and not having the same shoulder strength. He realises that he must do things differently. I thought this was interesting and is something I haven't seen in previous books. My heart also broke for him, as he wants to be able to tell the world who he really is — be able to live openly as a woman but remain a Knight, but society won't let him. It was interesting throughout the book to see how differently the women around Silence are treated.

I loved the setting — half of the book is set at Tintagel and Ringmar in Cornwall, and the other half is set in Burgundy in France. I also enjoyed the writing style. It's intended to sound like a bard telling the tale, and has comments in brackets throughout the story with side-comments. The story is well-paced, and I loved the magical elements around Merlin, dragons and water nymphs!

This is a fantastic read, a mix of fantasy and historical fiction. It's brilliantly written and I really liked Silence as a character, and his adventure was such an interesting read. I also really enjoyed reading about how he manages in such a male-centric world, where everyone must fit into the same moulds with no space for anyone different or individuality.

(My blog will go live on my website on Thursday 13th August at 6am BST.)
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A modern day interpretation of a 13th century poem, this novel maintains the feel of a fairy tale or Arthurian legend. 

Silence was born a girl but bought up as a boy, leading to a constant battle of nature and nurture. Throughout the story we encounter dragons, noble knights, royalty and Merlin - the perfect blend of medieval fantasy! All these elements feel familiar but are woven into an engaging and dynamic tale that feels modern and fresh. 

The trope of gender swapping has been well explored in literature but this one stands out for its main character not only dresses as the opposite sex but identifies as the opposite sex as well. With a modern understanding of gender fluidity it’s interesting to contemplate the topic from a medieval perspective.

The issue of gender roles is also a key theme of this book and while they are effectively challenged the author does a good job of highlighting their importance in the 13th century. In particular, the deep standing misogyny in society and the perception of women as naturally wicked is emphasised. I did find this interesting to explore but would have liked a bit more depth to some of the supporting characters, allowing them to show some development or personality beyond what society expects of them. But then perhaps Silence wouldn’t stand out as quite so unique, it was satisfying to see them grow while remaining true to their core beliefs and values at all times. 

While there are certainly elements of magic to this story that often takes a back seat, it’s the very hymen’s element of searching for an identity that provides the real magic.
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A really original take on a fairy tale re-telling--just when I thought we'd heard every story about knights!
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The Story of Silence reads both like a fantastical tale of knights and quests, and a thoroughly modern story of identity. Through its lyrical prose and allegorical style of writing it will appeal not only to the traditional reader of a Harper Voyager book, but also to a more general literary audience. It is a compelling story – I read through it in a day after I received my copy and have been thinking about it and recommending The Story of Silence to whomever would listen ever since.

I think the only thing I kept thinking of The Story of Silence as a point of criticism is a packaging decision. Throughout, I wished that Harper Voyager had printed a translation of “The Roman de Silence” which the story is based on, a fairly short medieval text, alongside the novel, but I think that is a very niche complaint I have as someone who appreciates those kinds of texts.

Silence is a really interesting character – I will be using they/them pronouns for them in this review, as there is a variety of different pronouns used for them throughout the story. They are born a girl, raised as a boy and ultimately have to discover their identity for themselves. By being raised outside of society and the norms associated with their assigned gender, Silence is confronted with the challenge of figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world at large once they leave their isolated upbringing. While their story is told retrospectively by themselves, it is done so in a linear manner as they figure things out, and not from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. As the author himself is trans, these explorations of gender identity are nuanced and ring true. It is not a simple thing, but a lengthy process taking Silence most of the story to come to terms with and find some kind of answer to. I hope that any books involving the discovery process of trans characters that I am going to read in the future will have such an insightful and thoughtful portrayal.

Many of the remaining characters are archetypes rather than fleshed out people, which adds to the starkness of the story instead of detracting from it. Their one-dimensional nature fits the schematic setting of the tale, where Silence is moving through a set world, fully fleshed out and ready to become their best self. Simply said, The Story of Silence is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend you give it a chance. I know I will be re-reading it soon.
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This took me longer to read than I anticipated. I hadn’t initially planned on requesting it, as I’ll be honest I’ve never entirely been super excited about Arthurian stories. However, I’m also a person who has read enough wishlists for “knight comes to rescue the princess, but the knight is also a princess” that when I spotted that I thought I would give it a go. What I got was so much more thoughtful and nuanced than I expected, and it took me a while to read because it encouraged a slow and considered read.

The giveaway, really, should have been the careful use of pronouns in the blurb. The author, Alex Myers, is a trans man himself, a trans advocate and a gender identity educator. It is no surprise he was drawn to this story, Le Roman de Silence, which dates back to the 13th Century and is part of the later Arthurian catalogue. But Myers took the story and developed it into an examination of the way societal expectations of gender can influence a person’s self-identity.

I struggled to settled into the book a little because it uses the format of a story-within-a-story. Silence presents themself at an inn, and is cajoled into sharing their story with the minstrel there. As this is Arthurian, not only do we get the introduction to this little scene, but also the backstory of the creation of the law preventing women from inheriting land, and of Silence’s father’s greatest adventure. I was a third of the way through the book before Silence had started to reach puberty, which meant that it was a while before I got to know Silence and was able to build a relationship with the character fully.

I felt the story really got going when Silence was old enough to decide he wanted to become a knight and started trying to train for it while he lived in solitude with his father’s cousin Griselle and the seneschal of his father’s hunting lodge. At that point Silence became less of a plot point for me and more of a character with real wants and desires, and the temperament to strive for them. The sort of character I love – one who is competent, works hard, and achieves their goals.

As you would expect, Myers adds far more depth to the story and the issues of gender identity than in the original. Removing the discussions between personifications of Nature and Nuture, he instead focuses on the dysphoria that comes from believing yourself to be one thing and finding you are instead another. When Silence is told he is, in fact, a girl, but must continue to live as a boy, it begins a constant internal struggle where Silence feels he has to battle his body and his nature to be who he really is. This is not helped by the constant barrage of gender stereotypes flung around him. He is told women are disloyal, lustful, feeble of mind, body and spirit, meek and incurious. Being as he is surrounded mostly by men, and the laws and traditions of the land support this view, this is a version of womanhood he can never relate to or identify with. He cannot be female, because he is none of these things. Meanwhile he is told by those who know his birth gender than he cannot truly be male either, because women are incapable of the physical feats required of a knight, and lack the strength of character. And just as he thinks he can deny his physical body, he is presented with an unpleasant reminder in the form of every uterus-carrier’s least-favourite friend, Aunt Flo.

As someone who is cisgendered, I found that rhetoric exhausting and demoralising to read, and it wasn’t impacting my sense of self or my own dreams. Being a woman in those days would have been exhausting enough, surrounded by such opinions held as fact. Silence’s experience, however, is sadly probably not unlike that faced by many trans people today. He is constantly told he is unnatural, that his existence is a sin, and that he cannot truly be a man because his nature does not allow it. This creates a constant inner battle against guilt for his own existence, for some sin he is perceived to be committing, and a hatred of the circumstances of his own birth. He’s constantly afraid he will be discovered and forced into the wrong gender, and that develops into a loathing of his own body and skin. I found this very emotive and I can only imagine that it will be even more so for anyone who identifies as trans.

Myers’ use of pronouns throughout is as respectful and pitch-perfect as you would expect. In fact, a key point of character development occurs as the pronouns change, and it is a wonderful and telling moment, and a very powerful narrative technique. This is followed up by Silence providing the ending to their story, and the minstrel decides to edit it to make it more palatable for his audiences. Myers then gives us a second ending, the minstrel’s ending, which is the original ending for the story. When put next to the character nuance that Myers has given us for Silence, and the depth of the story, this ending comes as a shock, and feels uncomfortable. It feels almost violent when compared to the true ending that Silence provided, despite it being the more traditional and expected ending. It is, perhaps, ‘neater’ in terms of traditional folktales, but it is shocking as an ending for the way the story has developed. It’s a masterful twist that makes the reader question their preconceptions of story structure and also gender politics within stories, even traditional folktales.

Briefly:

    A light-fantasy novel that examines gender identity in an Arthurian traditional story, giving us a trans main character who is strong, relateable, and heroic in every sense.
    The fantasy in the book is something more in the way of a catalyst, rather than an integral part of the story, so don’t go in expecting it to be ladies in lakes and fairies. There is precisely one dragon, and Merlin pops up a little.
    Merlin says Trans Rights.

Rating: 5/5 – this book was a fantastic example of how tropes can be made fresh simply by examining them from a different angle. While very little in the plot of the story differed from the source material, Myers adjusted the perspective, dived deeper, and presented something that builds up to subvert all expectations in the ending.
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I’ve been excited about this book for a while and it didn’t disappoint. This book, with battles and dragons and knights and song tells the story of Silence and their Nature vs Nurture life. Born as a girl but raised as a boy to get past the King’s rule of girls not being able to inherit land, Silence grows up hidden and protected by his Earl father (who rules Cornwall until Silence can inherit), Silence feels different yet feels the same, wants more yet or wants less, Silence wants to be treated (and acts) like any other boy, but feels something different. And one day, in their quest to become a knight, and under the constant stifling of those who look after them, they finally learn the truth of their nature. What follows is a brave, inspiring adventure about following YOUR truth and meaning, not the one give to you, about not living in a box with a label on, about freedom and discovery and all while reading an exciting adventure WITH MERLIN!!I found this book quite beautiful; “we are all a little both, a little neither. Proof that rules hold us less rightly than we imagine!” ... “It isn’t simply what we do, but who we are and how we understand ourselves”. This is a book about someone learning to understand and accept themselves, a book about conflict, that first looks like the conflict of war or love, but is really the conflict of becoming your own somebody. It’s reassuring and comforting, both in how you see yourself, and how you see others,  and I found Silence to be a lovely character to follow and this book quite charming!

My only criticism would be that the pronoun for the majority of the book referring to Silence was “him/his” and then suddenly it just changes to “they/them”. While I get that Silence long sees themselves as a man (or a boy), even when finding out the truth, and then slowly starts to accept all parts of themselves, the sudden change in how they are referred on the page felt like it came before any great revelation of this feeling, it just happened. It’s a minor criticism but a book dealing with trans issues makes me very aware of pronouns, that’s all :)
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This was such a good book. I really enjoy books with gender neutral characters.
Hooked from the start, and couldn't put it down.
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