Review: The Silk Map by Chris Willrich

June 12, 2014 4 stars, Book Review 19 ★★★★

Review: The Silk Map by Chris WillrichThe Silk Map by Chris Willrich
Series: Gaunt and Bone #2
Published by Pyr Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
My Reviews in this series: The Scroll of Years

It's Brent Weeks meets China Mieville in this wildly imaginative fantasy adventure featuring high action, elegant writing, and sword and sorcery with a Chinese flare.

At the end of The Scroll of Years, the poet Persimmon Gaunt and her husband, the thief Imago Bone, had saved their child from evil forces at the price of trapping him within a pocket dimension. Now they will attempt what seems impossible; they will seek a way to recover their son. Allied with Snow Pine, a scrappy bandit who's also lost her child to the Scroll of Years, Gaunt and Bone awaken the Great Sage, a monkeylike demigod of the East, currently trapped by vaster powers beneath a mountain. The Sage knows of a way to reach the Scroll -- but there is a price. The three must seek the world's greatest treasure and bring it back to him. They must find the worms of the alien Iron Moths, whose cocoons produce the wondrous material ironsilk.

And so the rogues join a grand contest waged along three thousand miles of dangerous and alluring trade routes between East and West. For many parties have simultaneously uncovered fragments of the Silk Map, a document pointing the way toward a nest of the Iron Moths. Our heroes tangle with Western treasure hunters, a blind mystic warrior and his homicidal magic carpet, a nomad princess determined to rebuild her father's empire, and a secret society obsessed with guarding the lost paradise where the Moths are found -- even if paradise must be protected by murder.


​The Silk Map is the second novel in Chris Willrich’s Gaunt and Bone series. I wonder if these could be considered literary fantasy – at least to this reader they are. The prose is poetic and lovely are begs me to stop, think and really digest. So much so that this isn’t a book that I could rip through. Now this is both a blessing and a curse. I have a tendency to judge books by how quickly I read them. If I can’t put them down and I eat through it in a day then I count that as a completely engrossing read. While books that take me weeks and weeks I always think less of. But The Silk Map and indeed it’s predecessor The Scroll of Years have proved my trend wrong in both ways. This was a magical book, one with rich characters and a turn of phrase that I couldn’t absorb all at once but it in no way took away from my enjoyment.

I loved how much more magical this book felt as compared to the first. There were more creatures, talents and events that just added up to make The Silk Map an absolute mystical delight. The author really captures the feel of an Asian inspired culture. During the travels of the main characters it was as if I were traveling along with them and seeing all of the strange and wonderful or mundane and everyday sights. That was how well depicted everything was. There are times when reading overly descriptive books makes me feel overwhelmed by detail but here I never felt that way. I enjoyed every bit of it. Now a little about the characters.

Persimmon Guant – the poet, the mother, the other half of the Guant and Bone duo. She has opinions and strong ones and will always tell you what they are. She has a strength of character and personality that can not be denied. Frequently you’ll find the pair bickering whether playfully or bitterly. Married couples will probably get a few chuckles out of their interactions.

Imago Bone – The exacerbating thief. I find that he doesn’t have as much strength of character as the others do. Personality he has of course but I feel like there is some oomph somewhere in his character file that is missing. He cares for his wife Persimmon and obviously wants to get their child back. But I find I want to shake him. Maybe that’s the Wife in me coming out. Still he is a fabulous character and hey maybe I want to shake him because he reminds me of my own husband. Well done I say. *smirk*

Snow Pine – formerly known as Next-One-A-Boy. She is still as serious as ever and while she mourns the loss of her beloved gangster husband Fly-Bait she will stop at nothing to retrieve her lost daughter A-Girl-Is-A-Joy, who is trapped in The Scroll of Years.

There is a great assortment of additional characters and the author really makes them all shine in some way. As far as creating unique personalities I think Chris Willrich really shines in this department.

Monkey – a god …or demi god. She is a bit of a goof, powerful in dreams but in reality she is a stone god pinned beneath a mountain which is also made up of herself. She is such a fun character and brings another personality to the table that was much needed to enhance the story even if we don’t get as much time with her. The direction our heroes take is due to her bargain. She wants Iron silk moths before she will agree help Snow Pine, Gaunt and Bone rescue their children. Monkey is a fine example of why gods cannot be trusted!

Lady Steelfox – Descended from a family that can meld minds with animals but only a single mind at a time. She is the daughter of the leader of the Karvaks, is deadly with a bow and heck I just really like her. She eats grasshoppers, has some really ingenious ideas that she carries out well and isn’t all out for glory like I think her sister is.

Widow Zheng – a fellow lover of the written as well as the spoken word.

Liron Flint – of Flint and Quilldrake, Limited. Traders aka treasure hunters more like. Another great character and I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing more of him *wink*

What would otherwise be an inanimate object – A very magical addition to the story. And that’s all I have say about that, otherwise it might spoil some of the fun.

There are quite a few short little mini stories, as well as poetry, spread through the book. While these pull you out of the current setting and into a different one, they also help to deepen the overall story that you are reading. Most of them are folktales of a sort and play a part in furthering the direction of the plot in a way that – one person tells the story and that story might be tied to the reason for that other’s quest or adventure they are about to undertake.

Guant, Bone and Snow Pine definitely don’t have it easy in this story and as a parent I really sympathized with their plight and desire to reunite with each of their children. The Silk Map was certainly only one leg of the journey in an otherwise bigger story arc that I think the author is building. I’m excited to see where he is going with it. A highly recommended series thus far. Fantasy fans will not be let down.

Read my review of The Scroll of Years (Gaunt and Bone #1)

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• This book was provided by the publisher for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Please note that this post also contains affiliate links. To view our full Blog Policy

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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19 Responses to “Review: The Silk Map by Chris Willrich”

  1. Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    “But I find I want to shake him. Maybe that’s the Wife in me coming out.”

    LOL. If you can believe it, I’ve not heard much about this series, but I’m not surprised that you’re the one to make me aware of more than it’s name. This sounds right up your alley. In idea anyway, it sounds like the execution could use a bit of tweaking, but I definitely get how this cast of characters could keep you reading despite the slow-goingsness. Persimmon and Lady Steelfox in particular (though the eating of grasshoppers definitely gives me pause, LOL). Great review, Tabitha 😉
    Jessica @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Early Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika JohansenMy Profile

  2. Mogsy

    I love the mini stories he weaves in these books! They are really what makes this series stand out, and as an author it must take a lot of time, patience and thought to write these tales and poems.
    Mogsy recently posted…Tough Traveling: Large ManMy Profile

  3. Wendy Darling

    Wow, literary fantasy–that’s a new term to me, but I feel like I know exactly what you mean by it. While I’m one of those readers that is a bit daunted looking at that big cast of characters, you make this story sound so lovely! I bet Kim would be interested in reading this. She’s such a huge lover of fantasy, I’ll have to point her this way. Thanks so much for the review, Tabs!
    Wendy Darling recently posted…The Girl with All the Gifts: reviewMy Profile

    • Tabitha (Pabkins)

      This book definitely has more of a hmm hard to describe. Its marvelous in the little short stories and I love the new characters but I can’t say if i know you’ll have a hard time with attaching again.

  4. Asma A.J

    I’ve never heard of this series, but I’m so glad I came across it now! Your review made me so curious, I am definitely checking it out.