There are so many books that I could read. An unknown book by an unknown author really needs to stand out in some way to get onto my reading list. Sometimes it’s the cover design that catches my eye, or maybe the book has an intriguing title. Occasionally the back cover blurb sucks me in, although many of those do more harm than good.

The Silvered had none of that. In fact it has an atrocious back cover blurb that tells too much of the story while making it sound cliched and dull. But when I read an excerpt, and it had werewolf lords at an opera house being attracted to young ladies because of how the lady smells – even though the lady’s eyes have no colour – then I just had to know more.

The people of this book live in a country where the nobility are werewolves or mages. Their presence affects all aspects of society, from governance to fashion. It also leads to interesting dynamics between people.

Human patriarchal family structures coexist with the werewolf pack’s “alpha and followers” structure. Werewolves, more influenced by instinct and physical stimuli, have to fit inside human social conventions. As an example, werewolves are strongly affected by smell and touch, while humans in polite society do not go sniffing each other too closely. Interactions between two persons vary depending on which form the werewolf is in: you can pat a friendly wolf but you wouldn’t pat a naked man.

The book also has a reasonably interesting plot: a werewolf and a mage go off to rescue a group of mages captured by the enemy army, and necessity pushes the mage to achieve more than she or anyone else would have thought was possible.

Most of the story is pretty good, but some elements are way too predictable, such as the psychopathic bad guy, and the mage girl’s inevitable triumph. Key parts of the final confrontation and escape are signalled so far ahead that they almost become anti-climactic. On the other hand, some events that at first glance seem like plot holes (“yeah right, how likely is that to happen”) turn out to fit beautifully into the story. And it was most refreshing to see the couple get through the whole adventure without falling in love.

But the plot was not what sucked me in and kept me hooked. (Which it really did: at one point I put the book down to go to bed, then spent about an hour thinking about and revisiting the best scenes, and in the end I had to go down and finish it even though that took me until 3 in the morning, because I simply couldn’t think of anything else.) The plot was kind of just there to give the young mage and werewolf couple something challenging to do, so that they can circle around each other, sniffing and nuzzling, and occasionally save each others’ lives.

On the one hand I am glad this was a standalone book so it runs no risk of contracting the “dramatic overload” disease of some fantasy series. On the other hand, I sure wish there was more of it!

Modern Swedish society is very un-tactile. Most of the time we only touch each other in formalized patterns like handshakes and shoulder pats and semi-formal hugs. Physical contact has somehow gotten all tangled up with sexual contact, and spontaneous, informal touching between adults is limited to a narrow range of situations – within the family, or a romantic relationship.

This touchlessness it doesn’t sit well with me at all. I am more tactile than most people, like the wolves in the book. I could live the rest of my life without sex, but I cannot imagine sleeping alone for the rest of my life. I wish we all had more werewolf blood in us and that we touched each other more, spontaneously and for real.