Yesterday I decided that I was bored and decided to read The Silvered by Tanya Huff again (link to buy it on Amazon); I have read this book at least 7 times, but each time I seem to focus on a different aspect. As I finished it today I realized that this time was no different, I had once again learned something new, only this time I have decided to share my knowledge.
In case you couldn’t already guess, there will be spoilers for the book (as there are whenever I do a directed blog post). If you greatly desire to read the book and not have any part of it spoiled, stop reading and move along…
So, some basic background/summary of the plot of the book:
In another world there are several countries at steampunk level (or there-about) technology. Some are advancing using “science” and “reason”, The Empire, while others are advancing in their own ways using mage-craft, Aydori primarily. This is a world with mages, werewolves (or Hunt-Pack, as they are known in the book), and Soothsayers (mostly crazy and often quite vague and then interpreted by men with agendas). The mages, normally have mastery of one of six elements (water, air, fire, earth, metal, and healing), at least in Aydori, and most mages end up with a member of the Hunt-Pack, forming the Mage-Pack.
When the story begins, the Emperor’s Soothsayers have given him a prophecy (“When wild and mage together come, one in six or six in one. Empires rise or empires fall, the unborn child begins it all.”), which leads him to send soldiers to conquer Aydori in search of six pregnant mages (which is, of course, what leads to the prophecy eventually being fulfilled, as always). Five of them are known Mage-Pack members, captured as they fled from the battles as their husbands, the top members of the Hunt-Pack, fought and, subsequently, died. The sixth mage was young Mirian Maylin, a young woman who had been kicked out of the “university” (mage school) for being incompetent and unable to “level up” un any one area of mage-craft. She might have been labeled as incompetent by her teachers but to the wolves, Mirian smelled of power. So Mirian set out on her own to warn the leaders of the Hunt-Pack that the Mage-Pack had been captured, only to arrive and find them all dead and then be captured herself. She was shortly freed by the last surviving member of the Hunt-Pack, a wolf as young as she was, and set off with him to rescue the captured mages from the Emperor.
In my reading this time around, I really connected with Mirian on a level that I had not in the previous readings, perhaps it is because I am currently applying for graduate schools and jobs and her position at the beginning of the book so clearly mirrors many of my own experiences recently. Mirian begins the book as a seemingly ordinary young woman who lives at home with her parents, who are placing a lot of pressure on her to follow the path they have laid out for her, and who isn’t sure herself what she really wants to do with her life. Mirian has been convinced that she is weak and powerless because she isn’t advancing well in the strict rules and regulations dictated by her society. All she has in the beginning is her “sensibility” and an urge to do the right thing, even if it hardly made sense at all.
As she continued on, captured, exhausted, and faced with impossible challenges, she became more and more aware of her own strength, although for much of the book she denied it. The truth of her life was that she had more potential in her than anyone of her teachers could have foreseen, she just needed the chance to let it grow. She needed to be willing, once and for all, to say, “F*** these BS rules,” and decide for herself what she should be, what she could be, and even though there was a cost, the rewards she gained were extensive. She had had her own worthlessness, or at least incompetence, so ingrained in her that, despite all that she was doing, all that she had done, she doubted herself and her abilities, right up until the time when she couldn’t anymore. Mirian is the kind of hero that we need, the kind that we remember, one that acts without thinking, out of instinct or circumstance, and then refuses to take the credit because they only did what they must, what they saw as “logical” or “sensible” at the time.
Most importantly for other young women (or men), Mirian is a beacon of hope. She lived her life following the rules, doing what she was told, regardless of what she wanted, letting others dictate her choices and tell her what her worth was. So many of us have been there in our lives. We think that we’re nothing, our grades aren’t high enough, we aren’t as skinny or as strong as society says we should be, we’re told (or believe) that we will never amount to anything because we don’t measure up to some invisible standard that another has set. Mirian shows us that there is an inner strength, a greater potential, in us than society would have us believe. She shows us that we can be more than what others see in us, what truly matters is what is inside of us; the potential to be more is as ingrained in us as breathing if we allow ourselves to believe in it. Each of us is as an unborn child, no matter how bogged down in life or circumstance we may be we still have that potential within us, that spark that could be more powerful or important than anyone could dream, even if that power is only seen by us.
We have the power to become more than we could have ever imagined, more than we could have dreamed, all we have to do is be willing to square our shoulders and say, “F*** these BS rules.”