3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
“Mum, if you had a tail, what would it look like?” may seem like one of the silly, random questions that children throw at you out of the blue. But for WJ Scott, it was the catalyst for Tails (Book One, Silver Wishes Series), an engrossing, charmingly-illustrated story of courage, friendship, and self-acceptance.
Tails weaves together three alternating plot threads. On one hand, there’s Kywah and his pack of silvertails – cat-like, herbivorous beasts with purple, pink, or white furs, whose tails possess magical qualities. Tails are everything to a silvertail, so when a hunter lops off Kywah’s, not only does he lose his sense of danger and direction but he also loses his pride and the respect of his pack. On the other hand, there’s the wizard, Tullius, and his apprentice, Zeke. In his obsession to resurrect the wizards’ waning magic, Tullius sets his greedy sights on the silvertails’ tails, promising a reward for each severed appendage. Finally, there’s the huntsmen themselves, most notably Samsa, the same cold-blooded hunter who had hacked off Kywah’s tail. Samsa is determined to make a fortune out of the hunt, no matter how many he kills – silvertails or humans alike.
When Kywah volunteers to seek the deep magic that will invoke a barrier around their home, his path crosses with Samsa once more. Held captive in the hunters’ camp, Kywah soon develops a bond with a high-spirited dog called Buster Boy and his owner, a boy named Cody. Throughout Kywah’s journey, his confidence grows and he begins to find an inner strength that transcends any of his outward imperfections – truly a timeless lesson that will resonate with readers of all ages.
Scott is a clever storyteller. There’s a simplicity to the individual plot threads that ingeniously belies the full depth of the entire story. This is Kywah’s story for sure, but the other characters have their own tales to tell. There’s a fairy who, like Kywah, is held captive for her magical abilities. There’s a gypsy girl who’s connected to the wizard in some way and who aids Kywah at a time of great need. There’s Pieter, Cody’s father, who regrets joining the hunters but is left with no choice but to go along for his family’s sake. Scott manages to convey a strong sense of authenticity in the story. No character is there just to advance the plot or to spice up the protagonist’s adventures. Instead, each magical creature and person involved has their own history and life purpose. Not everyone has a direct interaction with Kywah or the silvertails, but what each does – by choice or by force – affects the outcome of the story in good or terrible ways.
The only exception to this is Samsa, who, in my opinion, is dangerously close to becoming a full-fledged caricature villain (His motivations don’t seem to go beyond money and the enjoyment of other creatures’ sufferings). However, since Tails is just the first book in a planned trilogy, there’s plenty of time for readers to get a glimpse of this villain’s humanity in the succeeding installments.
With great characterization comes a compelling story. The plot in Tails is closely integrated in ways that may not seem so obvious at first, hence giving readers a pleasant surprise as more and more fragments of the story are revealed. The separate narratives dovetail neatly with one another, and although the switch between Kywah’s first-person perspective to the other characters’ third-person points of view can be strange at first, the transitions do not disrupt the reading experience once you get used to it. In the end, everything coalesces so organically into a beautiful, cohesive whole, leaving readers with a satisfying conclusion – and of course, an excellent starting point for the next book.
Tails is classified as a children’s book, but given the contents and the level of vocabulary used in the narrative, I’d say it’s more suited for older readers. There’s a heartrending scene where Samsa practically tortures Kywah – something that may be too bloody and violent for a younger audience. While the writing is quite elegant, some of the dialogues tend to be a little stiff for the person uttering them. For instance, Cody doesn’t sound like a little boy when he says, “I despise the hunters and hate the killing.” His father also sounds more like a lecturer than a farmer when he says, “Prior to leaving home, I read through the old family diaries.” Scott’s descriptive and narrative writing skills are admirable, but her similes tend to lose me at times (e.g., “The dog followed me like a lingering fart,” or “[T]he water fairy writhed…like a sabre-tooth eel with a toothache.”). The book also has minor typographical errors that I hope will be rectified in a future edition.
I rate Tails 3 out of 4 stars. While I was mesmerized by the characterizations and the surprising complexity of the plot, there were low points in the narrative that jolted me out of the delightful spell I was under. Nevertheless, Tails is a captivating story filled with endearing characters and worthwhile life lessons that will surely appeal to a wide range of readers. If you love stories filled with magic, animals, and adventure, Tails will be a great addition to your bookshelf.
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like inaramid's review? Post a comment saying so!