Haunted by silence, a mute teenage girl is mysteriously given back her voice … and it is divine.
Rendered mute at birth, Portia Griffin has been silent for 16 years. Music is her constant companion, along with Felix, her deaf best friend who couldn’t care less whether or not she can speak. If only he were as nonchalant about her newfound interest in the musically gifted Max Hunter.
But Portia’s silence is about to be broken with the abrupt discovery of her voice, unparalleled in its purity and the power it affords to control those around her. Able to persuade, seduce and destroy using only her voice, Portia embarks on a search for answers about who she really is, and what she is destined to become.
Inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, SILENT ECHO: A Siren’s Tale is an epic story filled with fantasy, romance and original music.
When I first read the synopsis for Silent Echo, I was struck by how different and original it sounded: focusing purely on the sirens in Greek mythology, along with a protagonist who wasn’t as kind, pure, and good as the other heroines in fiction these days. I mean – sirens. In Greek MYTHS. But Elisa Freilich’s debut turned out to be nothing short of ridiculous, with horribly cliched characters, and a poor spin on the mythology bit that I was so looking forward to.
Summary: Portia Griffin was born mute, and has stayed that way for the past sixteen years of her life. But then she begins feeling strange and painful contractions near the base of her throat, which leads to the sudden emergence of her voice, and she soon discovers the truth: she is a siren. Her voice is so powerfully beautiful that the very sound of it can control someone, as well as erase their memories. But her voice doesn’t only attract mortals – some immortals hell-bent on using her new found power for their benefit are coming for her, and the question is not whether she can defeat them, but if she can resist them first.
Okay, let me take a deep breath and try to write this review coherently.
There were many things I really, really disliked about the book.
- Portia: She was one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book. A mute protagonist is not something I read about every day, so she was intriguing in the blurb itself! But where her character could’ve been someone likable, someone nice to read about, she turned into someone I disliked from the very beginning. I’m not sure what, but there was just something about her attitude that infuriated me; I think I could sense that while she seemed like a sweet girl on the outside, she was anything but on the inside. And as the story progressed, she became worse. Okay, so she blamed it all on the “I’m-a-new-siren” thing, but SERIOUSLY. It was amazing how quickly she switched from frightened to bitchy.
- Romance: This book elicited more eye rolls from me than I have ever given (movies excluded). It’s one thing to have an instant attraction to a guy when you first meet, but it’s an entirely different thing altogether when that guy writes a love song for Portia within hours of knowing each other. This has to be a joke, right? No. And all this happened before Portia got her voice, so there’s really no reason for anyone to be attracted to her during that time. There was no chemistry between Portia and Max at all. Not even between Portia and Felix. Not to mention there is also a horrible love triangle. Or love circle, because practically everyone gets attracted to her once her voice develops.
- Characters: Felix, Portia, Charlotte, Max, Helena – the whole lot – were all incredibly bland and full of cliches. I wanted Charlotte and Felix to be something more. Felix is, after all, Portia’s best friend, and he is deaf. Charlotte is Portia’s neighbor living with an abusive father. With such a colorful cast of characters, one would expect great and unique characterization, right? No. Charlotte turned out to be a flat and lifeless character, who followed Portia around like a lost puppy, and became the “friend in the background.” In fact, I’m not even sure what her role in the story was, other than to provide more drama. Max… Max was the typical new student in the school who is somehow different from everyone else (apart from the fact that he’s British, but the dialogue doesn’t make him sound like one). And also, the characters seemed to have a particular fondness for Apple products. Everyone has a MacBook. Everyone has an iPhone. Everyone uses iChat. Everyone uses iCal. (OR… maybe this book is actually a secret Apple advertiser!)
- Poetry: Let me just give you a taste of what it was like, reading the “poetry” and “songs” in this book. I don’t pretend to be an expert at poetry (I can’t write a poem to save my life), but I know bad poetry when I see one.
“Well, I’m three parts devil, one part girl,
And there’s a heat that’s always mixed in.
Call me snake and I will crawl,
But best to call me Vixen…”
Unbelievable. First: Snakes can’t crawl. Second: There’s a heat that’s always mixed in with what? Third: A vixen has nothing in common with a snake. In fact, one is cold-blooded and disgusting, while the other is warm-blooded and furry! Unless you count that both have predatory instincts. There’s no sense to the poem and no sense of rhythm at all.
- Pop culture: I have to admit that I’m not a fan of pop culture in books. For some reason they make the books less… impactful, I guess. And the frequent uses of pop culture is Silent Echo annoyed the crap out of me.
“I mean, most girls my age are dreaming about RPats –” she took in Leucosia’s confused expression. “That’s short for Robert Pattinson.”
Um, yeah. I’m pretty sure Robert Pattinson was never known as “RPats,” and I’m really sure not many sixteen-year-old girls dream about him now. In the book, several characters watch Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Horrible movie choice! But that’s just my inner movie critic coming out.
- Dialogue: Tell me, do teenagers speak like this?
“Can you point me in the direction of some flour?”
I can’t think of anyone going through so many words just to look for flour. Or am I just being overly picky? Oftentimes, the dialogue was unrealistic and choppy, breaking up what could’ve been a very smooth, very beautiful flow. And also: cheesiness. While cheesy dialogue may work well in some books, it definitely did not for Silent Echo.
“When I first saw you, Portia, I literally could not breathe. I swear to God.”
Apart from Portia’s apparent “rosebud” of a mouth, which was mentioned in the prologue, right after she was born, there really isn’t anything else to support that statement. (And please read my point about the romance.)
“… imagine that — this girl who I already thought was perfect just became even more unbelievable.”
- Writing: Admittedly, the writing wasn’t terrible. At some points it was even beautiful, but there were parts where the diction was unnecessarily loaded, which made it very tedious to read at times. And then I came across this:
“The boys stuffed themselves silly while Portia and Max made googly eyes at each other.“
- Mythology: This was one thing I was really looking forward to, because I am a huge fan of mythology, whatever kind they may be. I found the tale of the sirens intriguing (since I don’t know much about them), as well as the sirens themselves. Freilich can write good mythology tales, that’s for sure. And I wish I could say the same things for the mythological beings themselves – the gods and other immortals – but I can’t. For one, the gods in this book were extremely pathetic. Let’s see: Zeus, Athena, Ares, and Dionysus are the only gods of Olympus featured in this novel. That was okay. What I did not appreciate was the fact that these gods were so WEAK. There seemed to be no distinction between them and normal mortals – which is entirely unacceptable! These four supposedly powerful gods were absolutely at a loss to defeat ONE immortal at the battle finale. It was Portia, a single, teeanged girl with only a heavenly voice as her only weapon, who finally defeated him.
Please let that sink in for a moment. Portia = one girl. Zeus (the king of the gods) + Athena + Ares (the fucking god of war!) + Dionysus = 4 GODS. Against one shape-shifting immortal. Ridiculous.
I was really hoping for something different and refreshing. I wanted the characters and plot to make an impact on me. But unfortunately, I’m going to have to say this will be my first and final book by Elisa Freilich I’ll be reading. I know there are people out there who will enjoy this much more than I did (I saw plenty of five-stars on GR), but Silent Echo just wasn’t for me.
This GIF pretty much sums up my feelings for the book:
Who is this book for?
Khanh said it perfectly.
1. People whose knowledge of sirens is limited to those things in police cars that go “whoo whoo.”
2. People who loved the poetry that their 7th grade crush wrote for them.
3. People who have eaten dinner beforehand and not susceptible to sugary metaphors. 4. Fans of Apple®.