Published: April 8th 2014 by HachetteAU
Format: Paperback, 406 pages
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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 by an ancient evil, Moria and Ashyn must race to warn the empire of a terrifying threat. Accompanied by a dashing thief and a warrior with a dark history, the sisters battle their way across a wasteland filled with reawakened monsters of legend. But there are more sinister enemies waiting for them at court - and a secret that will alter the balance of their world forever.
Oh, this was good! I was initially underwhelmed by Sea of Shadows, but I’m so glad I stuck with it because it really delivered in the end!
The thing that drew me to this story was the premise: twin sisters who talk to spirits, who journey away from their home to warn their emperor about the spiritual dangers that threaten their land. And yes, that’s what happens in the book, but this is actually the most disappointing part. I wanted to know everything about these spirits and what they’re doing, what Moria and Ashyn’s roles are, and what they’re world is like. Aside from a few mentions of Moria being a Keeper and Ashyn being a Seeker, and both of them ranking pretty high on the sociopolitical ladder, I still don’t really understand what’s going on. For example, it’s unclear why there’s a need for a Keeper and a Seeker: have the spirits rebelled before? Killed people? Laid waste to towns? Do the Keepers and Seekers keep them at bay? Or are they like … priestesses? They make offerings and stuff but the spirits are largely benevolent, unseen forces. Does everyone in the world believe in the spirits? Is this like … a religion?
See? Confusion! I think this book could have benefitted from much stronger world-building.
My favourite things about Sea of Shadows are definitely the characters. I really liked the twins in this story because they’re so different, but awesome in their own ways. Moria is the louder, impetuous one, who prefers dagger throwing to healing and is generally outspoken. Ashyn is no less determined, but quieter, preferring to think through her actions and negotiate with others and not threaten violence. The story is predominantly told from Ashyn’s eyes, which I found refreshing because usually authors pick the characters like Moria to tell their stories through. That said, Ashyn’s really quick to decide that Moria is more desirable, stronger, and generally better than herself, which is unfortunate (though not unexpected given the way people treat her). I think she’s often overlooked, and if she used that to her advantage she’d be deadly, but instead she just accepts it.
I think the romances in the story reflected this: both boys were first attracted to Moria, and then one of them ended up establishing a bond with Ashlyn because Moria wasn’t there for a while. Which is really just sad, when you think about it. I don’t think either of the love interests stands out, but I don’t mind because this is very much story about the twin girls, their relationship and their powers. If they’re slowly falling in love then that’s fine, but it’s definitely not the end-game of this series.
I did get pretty sick of how naïve Ashyn is when it comes to relationships and sex. I know she’s painted as a romantic where Moria is considered practical, but it comes across as little pathetic when she’s clueless about how to seduce a guard so she can escape.
The plot of Sea of Shadows was initially slow and it was struggling to hold my attention. But once it started going, it was very exciting and full of action. It ramped up nicely and finished on a strong note, and I’m looking forward to the next one!
Sea of Shadows is the first book by Kelley Armstrong that I have read, but I have a bunch of her other books, and this has encouraged me to read them! I’ve enjoyed the novel and will continue to read about Ashyn and Moria’s adventures.