Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell
By Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Fantasy/Short Story
When the familiar and seemingly safe turns lethal, therein danger lies. Amid a forest where the shades of the dead linger all around, every homesteader knows to follow the Simple Rules: “Don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, don’t run at night. These things draw shades.”
Silence Montane has broken all three rules on more than one occasion. And to protect her family from a murderous gang with high bounties on their heads, Silence will break every rule again, at the risk of becoming a shade herself.
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell was a novella that was originally featured in the Dangerous Women anthology, edited and compiled by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. It was released in 2013. Sanderson provides a very nice preface explaining exactly how this intriguing short story came into existence after being contacted by George R. R. Martin with a request to contribute to the collection of stories. You can find additional information along with several excerpts here on Tor.com.
This short yet captivating story introduces us to Silence Montane who runs an Inn that has become a safe haven for travelers and locals within the Forests of Hell. The forest is surrounded by shades, there are rules that must be followed in order to survive.
“Don’t kindle flame, don’t shed the blood of another, don’t run at night. These things draw shades. The simple Rules, by which every homesteader lived.”
But Silence happens to be more than a mere Innkeeper. She has managed to break every rule at some point when it comes to living among the shades. Hunting dangerous bounties to clear her debts and provide for her own, she also struggles to give her girls a life different from all she has ever known from a childhood that taught her to be a lethal calculated assassin. But she must also teach her girls to respect the dangers of the land, just as she learned.
“Never call this land hell, he had said. Respect the land as you would a dangerous beast, but do not hate it.”
Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell plays through a rapid succession of events that occur after Silence notices the presence of a rather large bounty within the Inn’s common room. The story while brief, manages to deliver a fully satisfying and engaging experience that feels complete.
I was instantly drawn to the shades, which happen to be remnants of the dead that linger as lurking shadows. Passive while left to their own, they pose a real and terrifying threat when enraged. I was fascinated by this darker element and how it was incorporated to add a new level of intensity to Silence’s secret, alternate life as a bounty hunter. The is an ever looming risk creating an ominous and intense atmosphere.
“Hide from the green eyes, run from the red.”
Silence’s character is where my true gratitude lies for this short story though. She is a female protagonist that I feel really engages the reader and sets the bar. Too often I find myself struggling with the unrealistic perfection of female leads. I want credibility, not outrageous. Silence was real, presenting with a hardened shell but an inner core that exposed her own weaknesses and softer side. She was capable and strong, but also justifiably terrified at times. She was cunning but cautious. I connected with her so well.
I am going to admit that this is my first experience with Sanderson’s writing, so I am unable to make comparisons. But I was overly impressed with how much world construction and character depth occurred within such a short span of time. The entire sequence of events felt thorough and complete. I feel that this was a great introduction to his writing for myself and perhaps anyone else who may be hoping to experience his writing. I can effortlessly imagine how complex and rich his full length novels must be.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐