Cover of the Silent Deal. Two boys, one carrying a shovel and an apple, another carrying a sword and a bomb, in a playing card motif.

About the Book

Title: The Silent Deal (The Card Game #1)
Published: 2013

Cover Story: Anarchist Bombs
Drinking Buddy: Hа здоровье!
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence)
Talky Talk: Dense Russian Novel
Bonus Factors: Cast of Thousands, Raised By Wolves, Mysterious Fortresses
Bromance Status: That Political Movement I Used to Believe In

Cover Story: Anarchist Bombs

Okay, after reading the story I realize they’re actually more like firecrackers, but still. When you have a cover with a boy carrying explosives and a sword, it can’t be bad, right? And there’s something about the playing card motif that I really like.

The Deal:

It’s 1839, in the weird little isolated Russian town of Aryk. After witnessing the grand old tradition of a public hanging, a young man named Viktor realizes there’s something is odd about his town. What’s with the weird, cryptic graffiti? Why is owning playing cards a capital offense? And who’s this strange boy Romulus, who lives in the woods?

When both Viktor and Romulus are chosen to attend school, rather than labor in the mines, they form the beginnings of a friendship. Soon, they are off on an adventure, determined to find out the town’s secret. Who is the mysterious Molotov, who rules the town with an iron fist and never leaves his haunted castle? What’s the deal with the Leopard, the cruel man who brutally put down an uprising years ago? Were Viktor and Romulus’s families somehow involved? Just what is this ‘Silent Deal’ no one is willing to talk about?

The boys turn the city upside down, visiting strange people, tramping through Roma camps, nearly drowning in rivers, watching no-rules boxing, digging their own graves, fighting bears, making explosives, and trying to figure out if the girls in their class like them. Typical teenage craziness.

Drinking Buddy: Hа здоровье!

Two pints of beer cheersing

Viktor and Romulus make a great buddy team. Viktor is brave and wily, yet awkward, while Romulus is resourceful and creative, yet impetuous. Together they manage to get the entire town ready to hang them.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence)

If there’s one thing we learned from Rocky IV, it’s that all Russians are brutal, muscular hulks who speak with their fists, or jovial alcoholics. This book pretty much confirms that. This is a pretty violent book. Even their teacher has the power to met out capital punishment.

Talky Talk: Dense Russian Novel

This is a very thick book, with a LOT of characters and a lot of backstory. A lot. And it’s the beginning of a series, so there were many things unresolved. I know a lot of young readers will not only be intimidated by the length of this book, but by the intricacy of the plot. I literally had to start taking notes to keep track of all the very similar characters and the elaborate history of Aryk. This would work as an adult novel, but as a YA book, it’s rather off-putting.

Also, while this book takes place in 19th century Russia, I didn’t really get a sense of that. Sure, the names are Russian and it’s always cold, but that’s about it. It wouldn’t take long to use the find-and-replace function to convert the location to Norway, Spain, or even Japan. There are also a lot of English puns that I doubt would translate into Russian, which further blurs where exactly this book takes place. The author clearly is an expert on the motherland, but after reading this 300 page book, I don’t feel he shared a lot of this information with me.

Bonus Factor: Cast of Thousands

Large crowd of people

There’s a slew of people in this book, which could be scary for a reluctant reader. Still, there were a lot of likeable people here, such as Viktor’s one-armed grandfather, the Shakespeare-spouting clown, the brutal police captain, and the juggling, horse-riding Roma.

Bonus Factor: Raised By Wolves

grey wolf

Romulus lives out in the woods with his pet wolf. He hunts bears, makes booby traps, and lives off the land. Just where did he come from? What happened to his parents? Who raised him as a baby?

He wishes he knew.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Fortresses

Creepy castle

The secret to the Silent Deal is locked up in the highest tower of Molotov’s haunted castle, guarded by a legion of masked thugs, the Masqueraiders (remember what I said about English puns?). Viktor and Romulus, of course, have to bust in. They’re not going to let that talk of ghosts, insanity, and weird medical experiments frighten them.

Then there’s Romulus’s secret den in the middle of the forest, as well as the weird hideout full of antique weapons and revolutionary literature the boys discover in the middle of a thorn maze. Aryk is worse than Innsmouth when it comes to hideous secrets.

Bromance Status: That Political Movement I Used to Believe In

Ah, yeah, the Silent Deal. I was totally into that in college. Yeah, I carried the playing cards and memorized the Brass Art and everything. Come to a meeting? Er…no. I have to work. And my kid has dance practice. Still, those were the days, eh?

FTC Full Disclosure: I got a free copy of The Silent Deal from the author. I flat out asked for a bribe, and still was refused. More books in this series coming soon.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.