It’s official: I prefer Kelley Armstrong so so much more when she’s writing for adults. I appreciate that this book won’t actually be released for another six months and I wouldn’t usually post a review so far in advance, but Sea of Shadows was so meh that I doubt I’ll be able to remember anything I want to say if I wait any longer.
Compared to other paranormal/urban fantasy authors, Armstrong’s pacing is generally on the slow side. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I thought it worked wonderfully in Bitten, Stolen and her latest adult book – Omens. But the success of Armstrong’s slower pacing varies. Sometimes it builds up a slow picture of the characters and world in such a way that you’re desperate to find out more. Sometimes it dangles a temptation for more in front of your face and guarantees you’ll pace frustratedly until the sequel comes out. But sometimes it can also mean that nothing seems to happen for the majority of the book. It’s been a while since I read it but I recall having such an experience with The Calling. That book ended with me feeling like I’d read a few hundred pages of filler.
While my experience with The Calling could be attributed to middle book syndrome, my experience with this latest series-starter cannot. At least the first two thirds of Sea of Shadows feels like the characters have no purpose or direction. Much of this portion of the novel is spent wandering around being lost and having love/hate flirtations with the book’s two love interests (one for each girl, not a love triangle). And while there was, for me, a very distinct turning point after these first two thirds, it was still mostly due to an increase in the novel’s grittiness and a couple of well-placed, shockingly-violent scenes. Not to mention it was all just too little too late.
I’m not one to get too picky over what we’re calling our genres but I feel the need to point out that it seems something of a stretch to call this book “high fantasy”. Or, if you insist on calling it that, then it must alternatively be admitted that there is very little managed in the way of world-building here. Some brief mentions of forbidden magic and a royal family aren’t enough – and they certainly aren’t original in a genre made up of forbidden magic and royal families. The history and culture of this world is barely touched upon; a fact which probably means Armstrong is saving it for future installments, but actually just made me feel like I’d read an extremely long prologue to what could be a good book.
I realise that I’ve been skirting around a plot summary but, to be honest, I don’t quite know what to tell you. Moria and Ashyn are twin sisters and also the Keeper and the Seeker. This means it’s their job to calm the souls of the damned in the Forest of the Dead. All sounds cool, right? Well… reading the GR description after reading the book makes me realise that it was telling the truth all along but I just couldn’t see the reality:
Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor.
Basically, in simple terms, the plot is a journey from one place to another. In my opinion? It’s a dull trek, punctuated by banter that foreshadows the inevitable romances. To make matters worse, Ashlyn’s character was far more boring than Moria’s, which added an extra layer of tediousness to her POV. Whereas I liked Moria most of the time but couldn’t stand her sexy hunk – Gavril. I like complex characters who make mistakes and don’t always do the right thing, but am I really supposed to find him attractive when he takes pleasure in insulting and humiliating Moria? I guess this is one for the teens who love the broody and volatile men who get a kick out of putting women down.
I guess you probably worked it out already but, just in case, I was disappointed with this book. I strongly recommend you pick up Omens instead if you’re looking for a new KA read. For me, Sea of Shadows failed on every level… characters, world-building, plot… even that twist at the end had absolutely no effect on me. I think that’s why I haven’t given this one star – I really don’t feel that passionately about it.