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Queen of the Dead, #1

“Silence” by Michelle Sagara is a mesmerizing young adult book that is the first in her ‘Queen of the Dead’ series. Emma Hall has had a lot of tragedy in her life, most recently losing her boyfriend, Nathan to a fatal car accident. Getting through the eleventh grade is hard enough without everyone constantly checking to see how she is doing but her life’s about to get even harder. Her default answer is ‘fine’ even when her head seems to be falling apart to the extent that the new guy in her class, Eric, takes her to the hospital for an MRI after having been present the night before when something extraordinary occurred to her while she was walking with her 9 year old Rottweiler in the cemetery. Luckily for Emma, her support system includes her steadfast best friend Allison who knows how to pack a wealth of information into a minimum number of words and her friend Michael who likes his life extremely orderly and sees the essence of things because he is unfettered by the polite evasions that most people employ. It turns out that Eric may be there to prevent Emma from accessing the mysterious gifts that she has suddenly acquired, even if he has to kill her. Naturally, Emma would prefer to avoid that solution but she has an agenda of her own and Eric may have to rethink his priorities.

A fantastic read that has a wonderful melange of characters (including a Rottweiler with the unlikely name of Petal and an engaging young man named Michael) who tumble from one improbable yet remarkably believable situation to another even more incredible and tension-filled challenge. The combination of typical teen concerns (school, popularity, conformity, parties) juxtaposed with the weighty concerns of death, afterlife, and survivor’s guilt are presented using those who distill complicated concepts into a simple purified question of love, sacrifice and survival. Ms Sagara has an enviable ability to draw a reader into a realistic world peopled by amazingly uncanny people who display unforeseen depths. Her tendency to center her tales on a young woman who rises to the challenges presented despite great adversity and her facility for creating a cast of characters who immediately become real to the reader is the reason I greatly enjoy this author’s writings. Keep a tissue handy and make sure you have plenty of time to read this exceptional tale because once you start reading, you’re not going to want to put this book down and then, like me, you will be impatiently waiting for the sequel.

Book Blurb for Silence

Emma Hall is a high school student whose first (and only) boyfriend died in the summer in a car accident — before the book starts. Nathan was almost her entire world, and she’s now left with the bits and pieces of life that weren’t Nathan–her friends, school, her mother. She spends far too much time in the cemetery at Nathan’s grave, because it’s quiet there and she doesn’t have to make excuses for how she feels, or how she doesn’t feel.

She doesn’t expect to meet people in the cemetery, but one night she does, and as a result of that disturbing meeting, she begins to see things she’s never seen, and to hear things that no one else hears.

Night Owl Reviews Apr, 2012 5.00