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Title: Sea of Shadows
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Rating: 4.5/5, rounded up
This young adult novel is the first book in the series “Age of Legends”. The village of Edgewood, aptly named by its location, sees the rise of twin sisters Ashyn and Moria. Twins are, in general, a rarity and the children are immediately forced to go through a brutal ritual to see if they are to become Seeker and Keeper. Those two young girls passed the test. As the Seeker, Ashyn and her hound Toga must, once a year, enter the forest near her village to find the bodies of exiled men with a search party. Once she finds and groups together all the dead, she puts their soul to rest through chants, exiling the souls from the forest. Meanwhile, Keeper Moria and her wildcat Daigo stay behind with the villagers to protect them from the evil of the forest while the souls are cast away. This year marks their first Seeking without their mentors, but something goes wrong despite their extensive training. Ashyn meets Ronan, a young exile who did not pass away in the forest like he should have done. Then, dark creatures attack and kill most of their party while other creatures similarly slaughter the adults in the village. Soon after the macabre discovery, Ashyn, Toga and Ronan must race to a neighborhood city to find the kidnapped children. Meanwhile, Moria, Daigo and her bitter guard Gavril Kitsune follow behind to find the Seeker, hoping they are not too late. Add mysterious beasts, possessed individuals and menacing mercenaries, and Armstrong’s “Sea of Shadows” is born.
I will admit that Ronan and Ashyn’s quest bored me a bit at about 45% of the book, hence why I removed .5 of a star in my rating. <spoiler>I think that the older character’s presence in the beginning of their walk could’ve been removed altogether. It felt like filler and it had no purpose whatsoever – a bit like the curse Moria reads in the beginning. There doesn’t seem to be any meaning whatsoever in some parts. The confusion this brings is the only downside to the book, really.</spoiler> Also, even though the description is beautiful in most parts, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming and I did skip a few parts of description, especially towards the end of the novel.
For those of you who don’t appreciate witchy rituals, this novel isn’t too bad. I truly hoped that the rituals wouldn’t be too bloody/demonic and I was pleasantly surprised. Armstrong keeps her audience in mind. The fantastic elements aren’t unbelievable and Armstrong includes some well-written mythology (ugh, that worm!). There’s swordplay and dagger-throwing involved alongside survival lessons, all wrapped in a nice adventure-driven young adult novel.
As for the characters, well, I love them. I dreamed with Ashyn, held my breath about Ronan, angst’ed with Gavril, and rooted for Moria. They each had their own sets of qualities and faults and were quite well-rounded. Even Gavril, who is despised by some reviewers for being cruel, has some mystery surrounding him that makes him appealing. In fact, everyone seems mysterious in some ways. The girls weren’t annoying whatsoever, which is my biggest pet peeve with female heroines. I enjoyed the insinuations of romance through the book, and even though Ashyn is quite the romantic soul, it didn’t overwhelm the novel. Yes, you’ve read right; this is a YA fiction without romance taking over the plot. Even where the plot might not be as tight as I’d like it to be, the beautiful way those characters were crafted made up for the few shortcomings I mentioned above.
Go treat yourself; pre-order that book! I recommend it to all young adult novel lovers out there. I’m pretty excited for the second book to come out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, in a couple of years, I’ll be watching this story on film (can anyone anticipate the fandom going wild over those boys? Team Gavril vs team Ronan would potentially reach the status of Harry vs Draco, Edward vs Jacob, Peeta vs Gale, etc…)
I would like to thank Netgalley, as well as Doubleday Canada, for the free ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.