The Silver Arrow is the latest release from Lev Grossman. Most will be familiar with the critic-turned-author from his series The Magicians. While The Magicians series was decidedly adult, this time around Grossman takes a crack at some middle-grade magic. I received a copy of the audiobook version of The Silver Arrow through NetGalley, but I’d had it on my wishlist already. I enjoyed The Magicians a lot and was curious to see how Grossman would handle a new challenge. The audiobook is narrated by one of the stars of the field in Simon Vance.
The Silver Arrow is stuffed cover to cover with some of the most classic tropes of children’s fantasy. There’s mysterious relatives, magic trains, talking animals, and more. Despite all this, the book never feels contrived or boring. I found The Silver Arrow to be quite a lot of fun. The adventures of Kate and Tom feel whimsical and appropriately childlike. I don’t mean childlike as a conveyance of simplicity, but just an acknowledgment that children care about different things than adults. Grossman captures that tendency children have to be imaginative and always question why the world operates in the way it does quite effectively.
Grossman pairs the adventure and whimsy with some moral lessons. What would a middle-grade book be, after all, without children learning about the world. In The Silver Arrow, Grossman uses the interaction with talking animals as an opportunity to talk about the environmental impact that humans have on the places they live. It doesn’t feel too forced and never distracts from the narrative or the fun. It’s also just a good message for children to learn.
Aside from the writing, Vance’s narration is fantastic. I enjoy British narrators. For whatever reason, it helps elevate the feeling of fantasy and adventure. Vance seems to have been a perfect selection for the story. He is adept at bringing to life the colorful cast of characters, from Kate and Tom to talking trains and herons. I would think it would do a great job of keeping the attention of the age-group that this book is targeting.
I had a good time with The Silver Arrow. It’s whimsical and adventurous. Despite it’s use of some familiar middle-grade fantasy tropes, it never feels too predictable or stale. Grossman seems to have proved that he can write fantasy for adults and children alike. It’s not always easy for a writer to pen a book for all-ages that appeals to more than just children, but I feel like The Silver Arrow accomplishes that feat.
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