100-Character Breakdown: The Hush has some weak points, but its dynamic music-based magic system saves the day.
Genre/Category: Young adult, fantasy, western
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (June 2017)
What’s The Hush about? When his father vanishes, Chester leaves home in a search for answers. From town to town, he plays his fiddle to earn food and shelter. One night, he plays “The Nightfall Duet” — named after the infamous Nightfall Gang — and illegally connects to the Song. The Song isn’t just any music; it’s Music, the magical force that’s tied to every aspect of the world around him. An unlicensed Songshaper, Chester is sentenced to death. But Susannah, leader of the Nightfall Gang, needs him for her plan to take down the government. A member of her gang saves him, and Chester finds himself on a high stakes journey that leads him into the Hush, a dark mirror world filled with dangerous creatures called Echoes, and to the Conservatorium, where Songshapers are trained. And Susannah’s mission might just lead him to his death.
Skye Melki-Wegner’s The Hush is a bit of a mixed bag. A cliché romance lacks development and a misstep with the ending weakens the book. The romance feels a bit shoehorned to raise the stakes, so it doesn’t feel organic. Luckily, it’s fairly minor, so it doesn’t take away too much from the story. With the ending, the main issue is that the reveals come in an information dump. We learn too much information from the villain’s gloating monologue, describing every minute detail of their plans right at the end. By gradually revealing that information throughout the second half of the book, the pace would have improved, and the climax would have felt all the more satisfying.
Despite that, I still found myself engrossed in the novel. This was thanks to the vibrant magic system that breathes life and complexity into the book’s world. The description of the western setting and the ways Music influences the world are beautiful backdrops to the plot. Melki-Wegner weaves in music references in her writing that do wonders to enhance to mood and tone. The writing is precise and lyrical, and it feels like it belongs with this story. I wanted to know more about the world, and the writing style kept me focused.
As far as characters, Chester and Susannah, while the main characters, are probably the weakest of the protagonists. I was far more intrigued by the rest of the Nightfall Gang, from deeply flawed Sam to the quirky, layered Dot to the amusing, yet elegant Travis. However, all five had strong ties to the plot, which made their involvement more meaningful.
So while The Hush has its flaws, it’s more than worth reading. It’s rare to come across a magic system that is so original and well-integrated.