Monday, March 24, 2014

ARC Review: Sea of Shadows - Kelley Armstrong

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on April 8, 2014
Published by HarperTeen
Pages: 416
Read From: 3.12.14 - 3.15.14

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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Creepy swirly red stuff on a creepy dark woods background? Oh yes, I like it a lot! But I don't know why it's called Sea of Shadows, as there is nothing having to do with a sea whatsoever in it - not even metaphorically.

Characters: Moria has some serious backbone, and it was refreshing to read a female protagonist who knew her own mind so well, who really could hold her own in a fight, and who had a sharp tongue who also didn't have The Attitude. The one thing that bothered me about her? Her total lack of romantic commitment. She's slept with guys and makes no secret that she appreciates physical qualities, but there is no commitment or honor in her. Why oh why can't there just be a girl who is totally indifferent to both romance and sex? You know, there are people - girls included - who just don't have the time to think about such things. Moria struck me as that sort of girl, but the Author didn't write her like that. On the opposite side of things, we have Ashyn, her twin sister. Ashyn is shy, unsure of herself, and doesn't know the first thing about fighting. The two sisters complimented each other very well, but Ashyn's constant self-doubt got very wearing, as did her complete lack of fighting skills. Couldn't she at least have gotten lucky once and held her own? I guess I need to give her A for effort (though, really, that should be E for effort, but never mind), and at least she didn't try to burden other people with her problems - though that's usually what got her in trouble. I never did figure out what I thought of Gavril, other than I liked how little he talked. And Ronan seemed nice enough. But I really don't know what my opinion was on either of the boys. The animal companions Moria and Ashyn have I didn't become especially attached to.

The Romance: There is no love triangle! Yay! Ashyn spends a long time thinking Ronan likes Moria (because Moria, according to Ashyn, is the prettier of the two, even though they're identical twins), but it isn't a proper love triangle, because Ashyn is just mistaken. I didn't mind the romance at all because it was there, but not overwhelming. Clearly Gavril and Moria respect one another - and even love each other - and clearly there's going to be something between Ronan and Ashyn. But it doesn't hijack the plot.

Plot: Twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are the Keeper and the Seeker of the Forest of the Dead - a place where condemned criminals and exiles are sent to die. It is Ashyn's duty to go into the Forest once a year and calm the spirits of the damned, while Moria stays in the village to protect them from any spirits that might escape. But the first year Ashyn journeys into the Forest to complete her task, things go horribly wrong. Their village is slaughtered, the children taken, and suddenly creatures from legend are springing up everywhere. Moria and Ashyn have no idea what's going on, but clearly there are dark powers at work, and they must journey from their devastated village to report what has happened - and to rescue the children. Pretty straightforward, now that I look at it, but it didn't feel very straightforward when I read it. Talk about some seriously creepy scenes! The whole Forest of the Dead was just majorly goosebumbs-inducing. "Scary woods" don't normally scare me because I've grown up in the woods; I'm used to it. But this woods? Count me out; it was just spooky! And the who village sequence . . . . I didn't want to turn my light off for a while after I read it. Some of the legendary creatures were super creepy, too, like the death worms (I know, I know; lame name, but they really were kinda scary), and the shadow stalkers. The shadow stalkers were probably the worst. I don't know how to describe them without making them sound like something they're not, so just take my word for it: they're scary. The world itself was really neat, and I really enjoyed learning what little we did about its history and its cultures. There isn't a ton of world building in this installment, but what world building there is hints at even more to come. The plot moves at a pretty clipped pace, with a couple of side adventures that were a little pointless, but fun nonetheless.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Every four or so chapters, we switch between which sister we follow - Moria or Ashyn. I liked this duel perspective, as we got to know both sisters very well this way, and appreciate their opposite, yet complimentary, strengths and weaknesses. The writing itself is surprisingly good, with very good dialogue, and excellent descriptions. A few ideas - such as Ashyn's lack of fighting talent and Moria's lack of romantic interest - were reiterated a bit too much, to a point where it grated on my nerves just a bit. But it was easy enough to ignore after a while.

Content: 1 s-word.

Conclusion: [Spoiler] Why does Moria always have to assume the worst of Gavril? She's the only one who doesn't think maybe Gavril is protecting her by taking the blame for something he wasn't totally responsible for. Come on, Moria; knock some sense into yourself! [End spoiler] Sea of Shadows impressed me. It was spooky - and therefore very attention-grabbing from the beginning, - has two very good female protagonist, and an awesome world. I can't wait to read more.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, seventeen-and-up, ideal for fans of high fantasy.


  1. Nice review! Not sure whether I'll give this one a try. It sounds like it may have a few elements of which I tend to be less forgiving than most. Still, the dual perspectives may lessen some of that if the repeated "character traits" are as pervasive as you say. :)

    1. I think there would be enough positive elements - i.e. the world building and creepy stuff - to balance out the negative. :)


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