Review: ‘Silver and Stone’ by Felicity BanksPosted: March 3, 2018
Getting into prison is easy.
Getting out is hard.
Getting away is nearly impossible.
Getting the power to control your own destiny might cost everything you have.
Emmeline, Matilda, and Patrick are sworn to rescue Patrick’s mother from the infamous Female Factory prison, but when a vengeful police officer tracks down their hideout, things get worse fast.
Soon they’re framed for a double murder and fighting a magical monster in the eerie and unfamiliar island of Tasmania. Patrick’s mother hides crucial papers in a tin under her prison smock, and her best friend Fei Fei is dying in the overcrowded prison.
More than one woman’s life hangs in the balance.
This book is number two in the trilogy The Antipodean Queen; I reviewed the first book, Heart of Brass, here. A lot of what I said there is still true of Silver and Stone: it is a fast-paced story set in a parallel world to colonial Australia, one with steampunk technology and a slightly more modern feel in certain regards than was the reality — the author says in a note at the end that she wanted to write a tale that was fun, so she eased off on the worst of the grim racism and bigotry. But it wasn’t completely glossed over; there was still acknowledgement of some of the worse events in Australia’s history, such as the complete extermination of the Aboriginal people in Tasmania.
Emmeline is the narrator. She is a scientist and engineer in a world where metals can be activated and bestow certain abilities, and her passion for experimentation and discovery is enjoyable to see. Yet she is still quite the proper English woman in some ways. Although she’s an outlaw and a bandit, she can’t fathom the idea that she might choose not to wear a full dress, for example, and although she and Matilda are a couple, she gets very flustered at the other woman’s more casual approach to nudity. In a fight, Emmeline does tend to expect someone else to rescue her rather than rescuing herself — but, undermining the ‘damsel in distress’ trope a little, the one doing the rescuing is usually Matilda.
Did I mention that I love Matilda? She’s a feisty woman whose mother is Aboriginal and father English. She is clearly struggling to find her place a world that doesn’t quite no what to do with her, but at the same time, she’s not afraid to just be who she is. I also loved seeing Emmeline gradually growing more bold, following Matilda’s example.
The story flows quickly, with the characters barely having a chance to rest between one adventure and the next. Some of the things they get up to would be impossible in our world, but I didn’t have trouble suspending my disbelief given that our world also doesn’t have steel corsets that give a woman the strength of a man, or aluminium that, when affixed to an item, neutralises its weight. However, the story focuses less on the characters’ emotions and more on what happens next. I would have liked a bit more emotional depth.
As with Heart of Brass, the last 100 pages or so of the paperback are devoted to a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style story. This one is from the perspective of Patrick’s mother, as she waits for Patrick to rescue her from the Female Factory. I really enjoyed that!
The last book in the series comes out later this year, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for it.