Title: Sea of Shadows
Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and pulse-pounding action, perfect for fans of Graceling and Game of Thrones.
Twin sisters Moria and Ashyn were marked at birth to become the Keeper and the Seeker of Edgewood, beginning with their sixteenth birthday. Trained in fighting and in the secret rites of the spirits, they lead an annual trip into the Forest of the Dead. There, the veil between the living world and the beyond is thinnest, and the girls pay respect to the spirits who have passed.
But this year, their trip goes dreadfully wrong.
With all the heart-stopping romance and action that have made her a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and set in an unforgettably rich and dangerous world, this first epic book in the Age of Legends trilogy will appeal to Kelley Armstrong’s legions of fans around the world and win her many new ones.
I will admit that I was a bit nervous coming into this book. I had loved (and still do) Kelley Armstrong’s first two YA trilogies, The Darkest Powers and Darkness Rising, so I knew I liked her writing and characters and such. When I heard that this new series was a fantasy story rather than simply paranormal, though, I was less sure. Fantasy isn’t always the best genre for me (although when I enjoy a fantasy book, I seem to really enjoy it, so there’s that), so I wasn’t sure if all the things I liked from her paranormal books would translate to an equally enjoyable fantasy book. While I didn’t quite love this book as much as her paranormal offerings, it was still really, really enjoyable and has me anxiously awaiting the next book – I really should have waited until it was closer to its release date to read this one!
I was most skeptical at the beginning, since I was still worried about the fact that the book was a fantasy, so the pressure was heaviest on the beginning – which is why I’m so glad that it was so enthralling. At first I was still a little cautious, but soon enough I was totally interested in this new world and with these new characters and with the new danger that had stumbled into their village – or been brought. I wanted to know what had happened, what was going to happen, and whether awful things would happen to these characters along the way. It hooked me, and that is definitely what you want a beginning of a story to do.
After such an interesting beginning, one might worry that the rest of the plot wouldn’t hold up, but I was enthralled by the story from start to finish. I wanted to know what was going to happen and what had happened. I know some people don’t like the whole walking around on a quest thing, so some might be bored by the plot, but I was always so interested that I didn’t notice any shortcomings. That’s not to say that there aren’t any, but when you’re too entertained to even pay attention to that, I think that is a very good sign.
I really want to be super-complimentary here because I did like most of the main characters, but I have to admit that many of these characters are reminiscent of past Armstrong characters from her YA trilogies (and possibly her adult series, but I’ve never read any of them). Gavril seems like a moodier Derek (or maybe Derek is a moodier Gavril – they both have their many moody moments), Rowan seems like a slightly more responsible Simon, a little girl named Wenda seems like a younger version of a secondary character in Darkness Rising (I won’t say who in case that gives away what type of character Wenda ends up being), and the sisters are probably quite similar to Chloe and Maya, although I don’t remember thinking that while reading. I really do think they were interesting characters – otherwise I wouldn’t have liked the book as much – but I don’t think they’re wholly original characters, at least coming from Armstrong.
The World Building
Since this is a fantasy book, there’s a lot more world building to it than a paranormal or contemporary book set in our times would have. I definitely could have used some more details, and in some ways it wasn’t too different from the clichéd fantasy world (only with some very unique scary creatures), but it was still interesting enough and left me interested to know more, rather than frustrated that I didn’t already know more, so that’s a good sign, right?
The Adult Situation
It’s pretty abysmal. Seriously, the majority of this book is traveling around, beating off scary creatures and sometimes scary adults. There are some adults, but none of them play a big part in the story at all. The girls have their father, but he’s only really around in the beginning of the story. One of the love interests is nineteen (I think – their age is measured by summers, so I assume that it’s the same as our aging), so he’s technically an adult, but this story is really just about a bunch of teenagers running around, sometimes with adults, but mostly taking care of themselves. I don’t think it’s a bad thing or anything, but if you prefer books where the adults are actually competent and play a big role, then this might not be the book for you.
Since there are two sisters and protagonists in this book, it makes sense that there are two different relationships to root for (or against, depending on where you stand). There’s the “you know they like each other, and most other people know it as well, but they don’t seem to see it – or do they?” relationship, and there’s the “she’s crushing on him, he’s crushing on her, but she thinks that he likes her sister and she’s really insecure about it and you kind of want to yell at her that he freaking likes her” relationship. I was more interested in the former relationship, especially since I think it kind of reminded me of Chloe and Derek from Armstrong’s YA Paranormal trilogy. They had some moments that definitely had a romantic undertone, but you never quite knew if something was going to happen or not. They had a bickering relationship where you could tell that they really did care for each other and that it was slowly turning into something more, which is the type of relationship that plenty of other bloggers seem to enjoy reading about as well. The other relationship was a bit more bland, and maybe that’s because the sister involved in that one was a little more bland, at least in my mind. I’m definitely more interested in the love-hate relationship between Moria and Gavril (that’s the first one) a lot more, but I could be persuaded to root for Ashyn and Rowan as well, if they get more interesting and cute and such.
I can’t remember for sure whose review it was that pointed this out, but Armstrong has a tendency to write chapter and book endings that seem to stop in the middle of a scene rather than at a true cliffhanger. Since I enjoy her writing and stories so much, this isn’t something that I have a huge problem with, but when you reach the end of a book and it feels like there should be something else before you read the Acknowledgments, it’s easy to be a little frustrated. However, it definitely has me excited for the next book and wondering how things are going to be wrapped up, and it did complete the story arc of this book for the most part, so I’m not complaining too much. Really, the only thing I’m complaining about is that I have to wait nearly a year to read the next book!
Even though I didn’t love this book as much as Armstrong’s other books, it reminded me a lot of them, especially in one way: I know that there were some flaws, and that not everyone might like this book as much as I did, but I was enjoying myself so much while reading it that I honestly didn’t care. And sometimes you just need those kinds of books in your life, don’t you?