Saturday, August 16, 2014

Super Book Review: The Guild of the Cowry Catchers (all 5 books) by Abigail Hilton


Gerard Holovar is an exiled prince who has made a place for himself in the Temple Police, upholding the law of the high priestess and the gods, the wyverns. Now, though, he's been promoted to Captain of the Temple Police and assigned to work with the scoundrel Silveo, Admiral of the Temple Watch. Together, Silveo and Gerard investigate a rebellious pirate named Gwain, whose followers have been killing off the Temple Police. In a mix of sailing, fighting, death, and life, they find in one another an odd friendship, and somehow find themselves eventually fighting against the temple, the wyverns, and the high priestess herself.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

Those with paws eat those with hooves. This is what the wyvern gods of Wefrivain teach. The fauns of the islands are the slaves and food animals of their paw-footed counterparts, and the wyverns maintain the hierarchy. In return, wyverns are fed and worshiped. These days, however, faun pirates are spreading new ideas. Their charismatic leader, Gwain, has taught them to kill wyverns, and they are effectively killing off Temple Police. Gwain’s pirates are starting to worry Morchella, the Priestess of the wyvern cult.

She thinks she’s found an answer in the person of Gerard Holovar, the new captain of her Temple Police. However, upon his promotion, Gerard strikes up a quarrel with Silveo Lamire, the admiral of Morchella’s Temple ships and her second in command. Silveo has a reputation for cruelty, cunning, and a biting wit. He’s a foxling - a minority species - and rumors say that he was once an assassin, who clawed his way to power from a childhood of poverty and abuse. He cultivates serial affairs with persons ranging from his own lieutenants to dock prostitutes. On the surface, Silveo could not be more different from Gerard - a member of the dominant species class, born to money and power, adhering to strict codes of honor, and devoted to his wife.

When Gerard is promoted, Silveo is intimidated. Gerard’s presence seems to jeopardize the position Silveo has painfully carved out for himself. Silveo threatens to kill Gerard if he stays with the Temple service.

In spite of their differences, Morchella believes that Gerard and Silveo have between them the skills to catch Gwain. She orders them to work together. They make little progress until Silveo meets Gerard’s wife, Thessalyn, and hears her sing. Silveo is generous to Thessalyn and vocal in his admiration of her talents. Gerard finds it difficult to hate anyone who is kind to his wife. The three of them develop a complex friendship that deepens as details from their pasts reveal that they have more in common than they thought. Their hunt for the charismatic pirate will lead them to dark places. On the other side, they just might find redemption.


I don't know that there can be a context for The Guild of the Cowry Catchers, unless I want to go into racial issues, and I really don't want to go into that here. Sure, there are some serious racial tones to this, but as the population of Wefrivain are only partly human (many of them, anyway), I at least don't feel like I'd need to make comparisons. There are also sexist tones to the series, regarding homosexuality, but again, I don't feel the need to draw the connecting lines between the story's narrative and the present-day world I live in. Let's just call this a really great story and leave it at that.


The Guild of the Cowry Catchers is a 5-book series: Embers, Flames, Ashes, Out of the Ashes, and Shores Beyond the World. I listened to all five books via podcast, and it is a wonderful medium for this series! Hilton did a spectacular job with the narrative, her voice actors are perfect, and I honestly don't know that I'll be able to read this in print without hearing the voices in my head. I wouldn't want to anyway. If you're an audiobook listener, get the recordings. They're well worth the time and money (if it's no longer free).

Okay, now that I've covered the audio, to the writing itself. Hilton is a great writer. She's very plainspoken, but that doesn't mean there's not any good imagery in her prose. There's a rather beautiful clarity to her phrases and descriptions that give the reader enough information to get an idea of the setting and characters' appearances, but there's still plenty left to the imagination. Hilton gives the framework and leaves the finer details to the reader in a wonderful way. A lot of the important details that are recurring throughout the series, such as the color of Silveo's fur, make perfect sense with the world and even have bearing on the plot. Appearances aren't ignored. There's even a lot of good psychology in the world and the characters' words and actions. On the Cowry Catchers website, there's a character list that includes the characters' Myers-Briggs personality types. Hilton kept to those VERY well, and that's the sort of attention to detail that is spread throughout the books.

My Thoughts

I got hooked on the series pretty quickly. Wyverns, shelts (part human, part animal beings), talking beasts, pirates... there's not much this series doesn't have, really. But while The Guild of the Cowry Catchers might seem like a children's or young adult book from the type of characters and world it's set in, it is not. This is definitely a series written for adults. Very definitely. If you're the type to be easily offended, don't read it. In the disclaimer at the beginning of every podcast episode of the series, Hilton mentions that if you need to ask if you'll be offended, you probably will.

Don't take that lightly.

For my part, I'm not very easily offended, so I dove right in. And I wasn't disappointed. The plot gripped me, the setting is rich with culture, status, and society, and the characters are loveable and/or hateable. Oh, and does this book tug at your emotions, both glee and despair! I cheered at moments, giddy for hours afterwards at what happened. I shed a few tears, too.

Then... there are the outtakes. Of course, these are only on the podcast version, but they alone are worth listening to the podcast. Seriously. I was listening to the outtakes episode for the last book at work, and my supervisor had to know what was going on. I wasn't laughing aloud (I have more sense than that) but I was definitely hiding the chuckles loudly.

Would I Recommend This Book? Again, if you're not easily offended, don't read these books. If you're cool with it, then yes, I highly recommend the series. It's a great fantasy story with NO humans (not easy to find without there being aliens or something) and the whole plot is great. Since this is a series, I'll actually be posting at least star scores for each individual book and then the series as a whole, so:

Embers- 5 out of 5 stars
Flames- 4.5 out of 5 stars
Ashes- ­4.5 out of 5 stars
Out of the Ashes- 5 out of 5 stars
Shores Beyond the World- 5 out of 5 stars

And for The Guild of the Cowry Catchers as a whole, I give a sky dancing 5 out of 5 stars.

For more information on the author, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment