For fans of The Book Thief and Raiders of the Lost Ark, this thrilling new novel set during World War I features a girl who must pretend to be a male soldier to save her younger brothers. Adi is an outrider, rejected by both her British father’s and Indian mother’s cultures, so she is no stranger to trouble. But when a mysterious agitator called “Coal” kidnaps Adi’s twin brothers, Adi has to rely on herself to find them. With strength and cunning as fierce as any boy’s, she decides to cut her hair and put on a military uniform to slip unnoticed through the chaos of the early days of World War I. When Adi finds a pocket watch that could be the clue to her lost brothers, she must figure out a way to decode it—before time runs out.
SILENT by David Mellon is quite cinematic, which makes sense as the author has been a storyboard artist in the film and television industry for the last thirty-five years. All of the descriptions in this historical fantasy, whether they are people or places, are primarily visual, so much so that it is easy to picture the world Mellon has created. Even the page breaks he uses are reminiscent of a movie edit, where in the middle of a linear story, a flashback or additional information can be spliced in without an intro or an outro. The novel is split into three parts, similar to the typical three act structure of most screenplays. While some books could never be adapted easily into a film, SILENT is the perfect candidate.
Consequently, this novel is a great way to introduce young readers to the World War I era. Not only is SILENT accessible and easier to read thanks to its cinematic nature, but the fantastical element is also very entertaining. SILENT follows young Adi, who stumbles upon misfortune when a mysterious man named Coal kidnaps her two younger brothers. Coal gives Adi a gold watch that contains four riddles. Once Adi can solve all of them, she will be able to find out where her brothers are being kept. The only caveat is that her time to find them is limited and she is not allowed to speak or write. Between Adi’s quest, a royal family, and a landscape of foreign lands, SILENT has the recipe for a great novel.
I did, however, wish to have a more conclusive ending. I was waiting the entire book to find out exactly who Coal is, what motivates his behaviors, and why he has a bug collection. I was also curious why Halick’s behavior changes so drastically. Was that also Coal’s doing or did Halick suddenly develop morals? Finally, how will Adi survive now and where is her father? In other words, there are many unanswered questions, even more than the ones listed. Mellon alludes perhaps to a second book set during World War II, which hopefully would address these issues. In the meantime, I would not be surprised if Mellon puts on a director’s cap. SILENT is definitely a movie I would go see, let alone a novel that will be enjoyed by all who love history, romance, magic, and adventure.