REVIEW: A Hymn in the Silence by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

A Hymn in the Silence

Title: A Hymn in the Silence
Series: Dark is the Night Book 2
Authors: Kelley York and Rowan Altwood
Genre: historical, horror, romance, paranormal
LGBTQ+ Category: m/m, cis, gay, bisexual
Publisher: x-potion designs
Pages/Word Count: 291 pages
Buy Link: http://mybook.to/DitN

Blurb

Since graduating from Whisperwood School for Boys, William has found a sense of normalcy in his life with James. He has a steady (albeit secret) relationship, a home, and a job—even if it doesn’t pay the greatest. Nevermind that he lacks James’ reckless bravery when it comes to dealing with spirits; he does his best and it hasn’t killed him thus far.

When a new client calls on their expertise in solving a grisly multiple homicide, William resists. They’re spirit hunters, not detectives. But the money is too much to pass up when they don’t know when their next meal will be, and soon they’re arriving at Evenbury Manor, nestled in a close-knit rural community, ready to investigate.

They’re in over their heads, but in very different ways than William could have anticipated. The hills are filled with creatures far more dangerous than any they’ve ever encountered, and their usual tactics aren’t working. On top of his renewed struggles with his addiction, William is left to fend for himself against the dead to protect not only the community, but the person in the world that’s most important to him.

Review

Taking place some time after the first book in the series, A Hymn in the Silence revisits the lives of William Esher and James Specter, though this time William is our point of view character, as foretold in the epilogue of the first novel. I enjoyed the previous book a lot and the sequel doesn’t disappoint.

Continuing in the tradition of the first, William and James become quickly embroiled in a murder investigation with gruesome roots in the supernatural world. The novel calls upon a few characters from the previous book, who I had honestly mostly forgotten about, and introduces several new ones, including Adelia, daughter of the lord who’s hired the couple to investigate. Adelia provides an interesting character, sharp, educated, and determined without sacrificing her elegance. I found myself wishing that the epilogue for this book would set up her as the point of view character for the next novel instead.

Adelia also provides some badly needed gender diversity to the books. Whisperwood was an all-boys school so the first book gets a pass on the only female characters being off-screen relations and servants, A Hymn in the Silence briefly features Miss Bennett, the boys’ employer and mentor as well as Lady Adelia. I sincerely hope both these women get more page-time in future novels, as I believe they both have their own interesting stories to tell.

We find out more about William’s past in this one, especially concerning his use (and overuse) of chemical coping mechanisms when it comes to his anxiety. The way these substances weigh on the relationship between William and James is carefully woven into the novel, not enough to become overly obvious, but in a way that shows that William understands what he’s doing and that he feels trapped by it. The novel also ends without a firm conclusion to these issues, either, something I appreciate, as a lifelong addiction is not something that can be overcome in the short span of the novel.

The novel delves into other troubles in the relationship, too, ones that cut deeper than the stress of managing to feed themselves on a shoestring budget and keeping their romantic life together a secret. Impossible to separate from these issues is James’s fear that he has somehow ruined William’s chances at a normal life. His struggle is understandable, especially given the time period, and it’s an expected trope when an exclusively homosexual character is in a relationship with a bisexual one. I’m guilty of writing the same things and I can’t fault the authors for including it. Instead, I find myself reflecting on the social norms and mores that make us feel the need to point out that this character wouldn’t rather be in a “straight-passing” relationship.

Overall, this novel provides a worth sequel to its predecessor and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I recommend it highly to anyone seeking a warm, genuine story between established lovers with some spookiness and atmosphere sprinkled. The plot works well and the mystery is sufficiently obfuscated so that the end isn’t obvious from the start.

About Dan: Dan Ackerman is a writer and educator who has lived in Connecticut for their entire life. They received their BSED from CCSU in 2013 and wrote their Master’s thesis on representations of women in same-sex relationships in contemporary Spanish literature and cinema. Currently, Dan is studying for a second MA in ABA and works in a center school for students with a variety of intellectual, developmental, or multiple disabilities. In their spare time, Dan continues to read and write, supplemented with a healthy amount of movie marathons and gaming.

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