Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Book One of the Age of Legends series
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Rating: 5 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
They hear the spirits.They must obey.
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire's worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.
Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.
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. But a terrible secret awaits them at court--one that will alter the balance of their world forever.
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong comes a captivating new series that blends elements of fantasy and horror with the pulse-pounding action and romance that have earned her a devoted readership worldwide.
What I Liked:
People. I don't even know where to begin. I can't... I don't... THIS IS TOO MUCH. The responsibility to produce a review worthy of my feelings towards this book... I don't think I'll be able to do this book any justice. I know the rating on Goodreads is not SUPER high - usually, my rating of a book is lower than the overall rating on Goodreads - but I seriously loved this book.
Ashyn and Moria are the Seeker and the Keeper of spirits. Twins are rare, and twin Seekers and Keepers are even more rare. The Seeking Day has arrived, and Ashyn must go into the Forest of the Dead to put the souls of those exiled into the forest to rest. Citizens of Edgewood who go into the forest (not on account of exile) always return, unharmed. But something goes wrong, something is set into motion. Soon, the two of Edgewood is destroyed, and the girls must find help. They are separated, but each girl has a companion. It is up to the four of them - Ashyn, Ronan, Moria, and Gavril - to save the children of Edgewood, and to enter court to save themselves.
I LOVED the set of characters that Armstrong has developed. At first, I thought this book was only told from Ashyn's point-of-view, but then I quickly realized that it would be told from Ashyn AND Moria's perspectives, both third-person point-of-view. I really like this. We get to learn a good deal about each girl, and while I liked Ashyn more, I really like Moria as well. I really like all four of the main characters!
Right. There are four. Let me start with the girls. Ashyn is the quieter of the two, the more sensible, in my opinion, but the more naive. She is the healer-type, with the calm disposition, and observant nature. She is more like my outer nature, in that sense. But Moria appeals to my inner nature. She is a warrior, a fighter, a protector. She is feisty and crafty, impulsive and quick-witted. The girls are very different, but I really like both of them. Neither girl is particularly whiny or stupid or shallow. They have their negative qualities, but the qualities aren't horrible-human-being qualities (if you see what I mean).
The other protagonists are the two males - Gavril and Ronan. Gavril is a guard for Edgewood, and Ronan is an exile who survived while in the Forest of the Dead for months. Both are fierce and intelligent, brutal and cunning. Gavril is definitely the colder of the two, but he has his moments. Ronan is less cold, and more blunt (in general, he talks more Gavril). Gavril and Moria are travel together, and Ronan and Ashyn travel together. The four of them do not intermingle (all four, together) until the last part of the book, in Fairview. But I really enjoy reading about each one individually, and together. It is especially interesting to see what each girl thinks of the other male.
I suppose that sort of leads me to the romance. The romance between Ashyn and Ronan is more obvious and proclaimed than that of Gavril and Moria. In the case of the former pair, they talk about potential lovers (well, Ashyn basically asks Ronan if he has a girl waiting for him). And towards the end, they actually share a really sweet and intimate scene for the briefest of seconds. But the latter pair is a little more tricky. Moria refuses to acknowledge any feelings she might have towards Gavril. Gavril, well, he has as much emotion showing as a brick wall, so we don't actually know how he feels. Except sort of, at the end. But then, the ending. Things get confusing. So we never actually see a manifestation of a relationship between Moria and Gavril, but as readers, we can totally see it coming (hopefully!).
But I should say - the romance is very subtle, in this book. Its definitely takes a backseat to the actually plot - finding the children of Edgewood, finding each other (the girls), staying alive. There is no perceived love triangle. I hope it stays that way!
The plot. I've seen some people say that the book is boring and slow and that the characters are walking around for the entire book. The last part is true - the two pairs travel to Fairview, where the children of Edgewood were taken. The children were taken as ransom, I believe, and possibly to be a part of the shadow army that the enemy is creating. I'm not entirely sure. But anyway. I thought the plot was actually really interesting. It's shrouded in mystery, and you have to peel back layers and layers, but things get interesting quickly, in my opinion. The beginning is a tad bit slow, but once people start dying (which is pretty soon), question emerge, and trust me - you WANT to know what is going on.
The fantasy part of this novel is creepy cool. There are shadow stalkers - creatures made of shadow, death worms - like a snake, but an anaconda, I suppose, thunder hawks - gigantic hawk-like bird that sounds like thunder. Spirits are a huge part of this book - they speak to Moria and Ashyn, as the Keeper and Seeker, but evil ones also can inhabit humans. Creepy cool.
I think I've said a lot... but seriously, this book was great. I LOVE fantasy, and this book is a really great fantasy novel. I love the story, and I love the romance between each pair (especially Ronan and Ashyn). I cannot wait to see what happens in the second book - because the ending of this book is CRAZY. I was NOT expecting that at all. Although, I was expecting something sneaky... but not THAT. I seriously cannot wait. Gimme more!
What I Did Not Like:
I don't think I have any legitimate complaints... I just want the second book! And then the third! And so on!
Would I Recommend It:
Um, YES! Clearly, if I'm giving this book five stars, then you know this book has to be good. I don't just hand out five stars like that. Also? My rating of this book is higher than the overall rating on Goodreads - that NEVER happens (my rating is always lower). So. You should read this one, if you have an ARC or eARC or copy. It's worth it, especially for those fantasy lovers out there!
5 stars. I think this is my first 5-star rating of 2014? Wait no, Alienated, and Sins of A Wicked Princess. Okay, my THIRD 5-star rating of 2014, out of... forty books read for the year so far. Three out of forty. I've only read two of Armstrong's book - The Summoning, and The Awakening - and I didn't really like them. But I LOVED this book, and will definitely be reading the next book!
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