CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 12. . . .November 20, 2015
Sea of Shadows is the first book in the “Age of Legends” trilogy. Dual protagonists Moira and Ashyn are twin sisters living in Edgewood, beside the Forest of the Dead where prisoners are sent to die. Moira is the Keeper, trained to fight to defend the people of Edgewood from "unsettled spirits"; Ashyn is the Seeker who must go into the Forest of the Dead once a year and perform a ritual to put the dead prisoners' spirits to rest.
On Ashyn's first time in the Forest to do the ritual, almost everyone in her entourage is mysteriously killed. She returns to the village with Ronan, a condemned prisoner who somehow managed to survive the Forest. The next day, almost everyone in the village is killed by shadow stalkers. Ashyn and Moira are separated in the confusion. Ashyn leaves the village with Ronan and a few survivors. Moira leaves later with Gavril, the only guard left alive.
The two groups cross the Wastes, encountering legendary dangers like death worms and thunder hawks. Each pair—quiet Ashyn and cocky thief Ronan, bold Moira and aggravating Gavril—learns to trust one another. When they arrive at Fairview, the nearest town, they discover it has been taken over by a group of brutal mercenaries. The mercenaries have the shadow stalkers at their command and threaten to kill all the rest of Edgewood's children if Moira and Ashyn don't take their demands to the emperor. Moira, Ashyn, Ronan and Gavril travel to the emperor's city to bring the message and warn him. The book ends on a cliffhanger that promises a devastating war between the emperor and Gavril's exiled father who wants the throne.
Sea of Shadows has all the elements of an exciting YA fantasy: spooky forest setting, terrifying monsters, evil soldiers, attractive heroes and heroines who start out disliking each other but inevitably fall in love. There is plenty of action to move the story along and a number of gory deaths to keep the stakes high.
The world-building is perfunctory: the nature of spirits and how they can harm people are never explained; the particular powers or skills of the Keeper and Seeker are not developed—they can sometimes hear spirits, but this never comes in useful to the plot; magic is mentioned but without any indication of how it works. The setting is indistinguishable from standard pseudo-medieval fantasy kingdoms, with random elements from various cultures thrown in.
Moira and Ashyn are strong characters with agency who make informed decisions and stay true to their purpose. Their bond as sisters is a clear thread through the story. The narration alternates between the two of them according to the needs of the plot; this is sometimes awkward but sometimes works to increase suspense. Ronan and Gavril start out as stock characters but develop complexity as the story progresses. Deciding whether or not to trust them creates interesting plot twists.
Sea of Shadows will appeal to readers who like action and romance in a fantasy setting. Fans of paranormal romance will find this an easy entry into epic fantasy.
Kim Aippersbach is a writer, editor and mother of three living in Vancouver, BC.
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