Sea by Sarah Driver, is the first in a new series, to be published on April 7th.  Apart from the magnificent cover, I also liked the blurb, and jumped at the chance of an ARC from Net-Galley.  In retrospect, I think the cover seduced me, and I should have taken more notice of my slight caution that I ‘liked’ the authors listed for comparison rather than loving them.

Sea by Sarah Driver (The Huntress #1)

sea-by-sarah-driverThe Blurb

The first book in a stunning new fantasy adventure trilogy, perfect for readers aged 9+ and fans of Philip Pullman, Piers Torday, Abi Elphinstone, Katherine Rundell and Frances Hardinge.

In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka . . .

Sea-churning, beast-chattering, dream-dancing, whale-riding, terrodyl-flying, world-saving adventure. 

If you like Northern Lights, The Lie Tree, The Last Wild and Rooftoppers, you’ll love Sea by Sarah Driver.

My Review

Yes, I did like Northern Lights, and I do tend to like books set in colder climes.  This looked intriguing.  And the cover was not only stunningly gorgeous, it still is!

I started out tackling the narrative with some enjoyment, although the continual use of ‘ent’ for ain’t started to irritate, and at first all the animal/bird names given to the different characters confused me.  Some appeared to be human, and some were animals that Mouse can speak to, but others can’t, because Mouse has the gift.  Then there are a whole load more animals who have strange powers, and a lot of things with strange names.  It’s a very complex world, with different parts of the land that we travel to, and a lot of voyaging that is not much fun at all.  The Huntress is a wooden icebreaker ship, and the world has magic provided by whales, opposed by merwraiths, and that’s just a snippet of the magical creatures, because I got a bit lost.

In a nutshell it’s a quest. I thought the style was a little like David Eddings, but the author does not pick up the usual quest trope of weak and vulnerable youngster finding something and gathering with the rich and powerful to set out to do something with it.  No, Mouse has to do it all on her own, with only a few magical animals to persuade to help her – plus someone who starts as a sworn enemy.  Since she seems to acquire sworn enemies easily, that’s not a spoiler!

I couldn’t decide whether the inventive writing style helped or hindered my comprehension and involvement. Maybe the technical difficulties of a book which is clearly designed for paperback with lots of glyphs and regular big page drawings and motifs did that.  They played merry hell with the presentation on kindle.  For a good third of the book I diligently flicked through triple pages of nothing (i.e. blank) that occurred in the middle of a sentence. Then it became easy to flick through a lot of violence; fights at sea and on the ship are well described, but I found the relentless cruelty of the new captain distasteful.  I did read through to the end, though, and found the latter third rather enjoyable.  I hadn’t missed anything important to the plot so far.

If you are eagle-eyed, you may be expecting my next complaint: it isn’t a complete story.  It is part of a trilogy, and not even part of the quest ends in this book.  So this is not a world-saving adventure. She manages to find, lose and find something again.  Maybe two things, although there is a third thing….  Is this a complete story in itself with the quest continuing?  Moot point.  It’s not a real cliffhanger–she is not just about to fall from a great height to certain death–but I don’t have any inclination to pick up the next part.

So I was disappointed.  The writing is extremely descriptive and unusual, the world-building is extensive. The plot is okay.  I wish the author well.  I strongly advise potential readers to READ THE ONLINE SAMPLE before purchasing it!

Other thoughts

I had a look to see what others had said; plenty have the same thoughts as me.  I hugely applaud the mum who attempted to read it aloud to her 10 year old.  What accent would you try the narrative in?  I’d go for Cornish, but it wouldn’t quite fit.  Sea by Sarah Driver is a strange book.  Maybe it’s genius and I just don’t recognise it.  Come to think of it, that’s roughly how I felt about Northern Lights.

It’s books like this that make me feel I have now completed my apprenticeship as an old fogey, and have become a fully fledged one.

PS- if this is suitable for 9+ then so are all the Princelings series.

Book Review | Sea by Sarah Driver @EMTeenFiction
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