The ballad this book is based on is one that I quite enjoyed, but really wasn’t sure how someone would handle as a retelling. There are a bunch of themes — Silence’s Nature vs Nurture, of course, but also the fake rape narrative — that need to be sensitively handled… and broadly speaking, I think Myers handled it and stuck the landing. I’d actually peeked ahead and read the final couple of pages, and was really disappointed (and couldn’t understand) how the original ballad’s ending would fit with the Silence I came to know. Suffice it to say, don’t do that. Myers does make it make sense — and not by denying Silence’s journey through the book.
I thought the fleshing out of the ballad was well done. It’s been quite a while since I read it, so I couldn’t spot the embroidering as well as I might have liked; obviously I knew that much of it was, since a ballad wouldn’t go into that kind of emotional detail, but I think I’d have enjoyed watching Myers reference the ballad while making a modern story work.
I did also find the pronoun switch a little jarring, when it happens — it’s basically mid-scene, and without much introspection about it first… it just switches over. Makes sense in the context of the conversation Silence is having at the time, but, I don’t know, it felt odd. It felt like the real moment of making that switch in identity was later, to me, and until then the pronoun sat oddly.
The pacing felt maybe a little off at times; Silence spends certain periods in holding patterns, waiting for the right push to hurry up and move on, and that was a touch frustrating at times. Also, Silence is waaay too perfect, which works for the hero of a ballad but less so for a novel: Silence is kind, Silence is attentive to people below them in rank, Silence figures out how to be good at jousting despite their disadvantages, Silence sings beautifully, Silence fights wonderfully, Silence is good and honest and true, etc, etc.
For the most part, though, the retelling works — it’s a worthwhile update to bring the story of Silence to new readers.