Author: Joshua Phillip Johnson
The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea.
On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother–The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper–has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.
But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.
To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves.
Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything–ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun–to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.
This novel first interested me with its unique concept and cemented my interest with an extremely gorgeous cover. Although I have read many pirates stories before, this one took a whole new take on this by creating an extremely imaginative world that is not like anything I have read before. It is a promising start to what looks to be a fun series with a setting that you wish were real as it just sounds breathtaking with an endless sea of grass with ships that magically float above.
Kindred Greyreach is a hearth keeper on the Errant, a ship that sails on the Forever Sea. The sea is an endless scene of prairie grass that is harvested and is filled with mysterious creatures. The hearth keeper sings to control the hearth that is made of burning bones. The hearth reacts to the different songs that the hearth keeper sings to control the ship, such as its speed. The Errant is full of female characters that help run it as they are off for adventures. This was a refreshing take to have a female ran ship compared to the typical ones that are either mostly or exclusively men.
There is a central island called Arcadia that is in the middle of The Forever Sea and acts as a port for many of the ships. A water shortage becomes a major obstacle that becomes an issue as the ships need the water to sail. It was a very fun concept to have the water become the shortage for ships that sail across grass. While Kindred’s ship is docked in Arcadia, she discovers that her grandmother has “died” after jumping into the Forever Sea. Kindred decides to go on a quest to find out the truth as she does not believe that her grandmother would jump for no reason. She convinces the captain of the Errant, Captain Caraway, to go to the floating city of Once-City, a mysterious place where pirates are rumored to be. The trip is a dangerous one that is full of potential obstacles.
The story starts off slower until about the halfway point where it really picks up. The beginning spends a lot of time building the worlds and the characters as everything is very detailed. The imagery is very vivid and it is easy to picture everything in your mind as every aspect is described. There were times where I started caring more about the scenery more than the story as it just took a greater portion of my mind while reading. As a standalone, this would bother me more, I believe, since there is a lot of time spent on painting a picture more than plot. However, as this is a series, my thoughts want me to believe that the amount of descriptions will reduce in the next novel and the focus will be more on the story and move the plot along.
Overall, this story has incredible potential as it is a fascinating take on the pirate adventure story. The scenery steals the show as the world is gorgeous without the reader actually having seen it with their own eyes; they only saw it in their minds. Kindred was very difficult to relate to as she seemed very selfish as she did what she wanted despite any potential consequences and believes her unconventional magic at the hearth is the better way and disapproves of traditions. While traditions aren’t always the best, it was slightly wearing to have Kindred put it down. The other characters in the story, though, balance Kindred as they were enjoyable and entertaining and I hope that the readers get to learn more about all, or at least most, of them in the sequel. As for the story, it can drag a bit though as some parts feel repetitive and it took me a lot longer to read this novel than usual. I wanted to keep going as I rarely DNF a book, but there were times where it dragged a bit too much for me. I am glad that I stuck with it though as I feel that the second novel will continue with the momentum that this book seemed to have towards the end. I would recommend this story for any reader to form their own opinions as there are some that rave about it and some that did not like it as much, therefore it is best for the reader to choose for themselves.
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, DAW, and the author for an ARC to read. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**