Monday, March 17, 2014

ARC Book Review: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Sea of ShadowsAuthor: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: 
I noticed, just before reviewing this book, that a new cover had been released.  The first one, I believe, will be the hardcover and the second, the paperback.  I have to say, I much prefer the second book.  The first has some strange swirling mists that may or may not form an image.  The second has a fierce image and the coloring is just perfect. 

The Gist:
Moria and Ashyn, the Keeper and the Seeker are charged with calming the spirits of those condemned to the Forest of the Dead.  This year, however, something has gone wrong.  The spirits will not be soothed and strange magics allow them to rise and attack the villagers.  With their people slaughtered and themselves separated, the sisters must travel over the wasteland in search of their village's lost children and each other.


I have been a big fan of Kelley Armstrong for a very long time.  Many moons ago, I devoured her Women Of the Otherworld series (preferring the witch side to the werewolf one).  When she started releasing YA novels, I was slightly disappointed in the quality but still buoyed up by the fact that we were still dealing with the Otherworld and the that I was already familiar with.  I had hoped, by the time Sea of Shadows was published, that the kinks would be ironed out with her YA writing and that this could be an enjoyable new series.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was incredibly and unequivocally wrong. 

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Very quickly, I encountered a problem with the worldbuilding in this novel.  By the time I was 50 pages in, I still had no idea how this new mythology worked and was getting tired of all the rules that I had to be told about.  Despite being constantly reminded that the twins were super special snowflakes, I never really saw anything that was the least bit impressive. 

unimpressed animated GIFYes, they can hear spirits, but this power was rarely mentioned and, when it was, the spirits didn't actually tell them anything that was anywhere near useful.  Yes, Moiria is supposed to be some famed warrior protector, but she needs just as much rescuing as her sister and is constantly being told that she isn't as strong as the men around her.  I was particularly annoyed that the author felt the need to set each girl up with a nice strong man to protect them and to serve as a love interest.   This is such an old fashioned way of writing and I am surprised that Armstrong hasn't grown out of this yet. 

There was also something strange about the pacing in the beginning of this book.  It jumped, almost immediately, into violent scenes of death, one after the other, without any time to get to know the characters or the setting.  Since I was not emotionally invested in any of the characters, their deaths had no impact and, with barely any downtime in between massacres, reading it just made me tired. 

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A few deaths, spaced out, might have added to the sense of suspense; jumping in head first in this way was just overkill.  It almost felt like this was a second book, rather than a first.  In second books we have already gotten the worldbuilding out of the way and have gone through some character development so the author is able to skip right over those steps and throw the reader into the meat of the story.  It seemed like Armstrong was more interested in the blood drenched battles than in easing the reader into this new world.

Once we got through the awkward beginning, things did pick up a little.  I enjoyed the time in the wasteland and the addition of more mythical creatures to battle.  During this time, we get to know each of the girls separately and they have time to develop their connections to their male counterparts.  I have to say, my absolute favorite part of this book was the connection with their sacred animals, Tova and Daigo. 

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I loved the connection between them and how the animals showed their personality.  This is a particular skill of Armstrong's as she has spent a great deal of time writing about shifters communicating in their animal forms.  The only time I found myself really invested in the story was when the fate of one of the animals was in jeopardy.

As the plot wore on, I got really tired of the twins being separated time and time again and began skimming through these parts.  By the time I got to the BIG REVEAL, I had already lost interest and was unimpressed by the attempted plot twist.  In the end, this book left me in a very "meh" sort of mood and has turned me off from reading any more of Kelley Armstrong's YA.      

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Very Violent Death Scenes, Swordplay, Talk of Rape
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Bastard, Vulgar references to sex with minors.
Substance Use/Abuse: None


ahz1 said...

Oh thank you. I thought I was alone in my thoughts about this book. I think I got up to page 60 and just gave up. I couldn't tell the sisters apart and I could not get invested in the characters. I think I'll be skipping her YA books and I'll wait for more of her adult series.

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