on June 24, 2014
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One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.
Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.
But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world . . . or is doomed to exile
This is the story of a lost girl. Both literally and figuratively. Sophie is adrift in the course of her life, stuck in that sort of early 20s purgatory, and living in the shadow of her adopted family’s academic genius. On a mission to track down her birth mother Sophie gets more than she bargained for when accidentally stumbles upon on an assassination attempt with people from another world. When Sophie accidentally travels back with them she discovers there’s more to her history than she ever thought possible.
I enjoyed the plot. The political machinations and the mysteries at the heart of the story are twisty-turny and thoroughly absorbing. This is fun political fantasy. And even though this is actually an adult book it has such a spirited MG feel. It’s a high seas adventure! There are pirates! And magic! There are even moments of grotesque horror akin to the mutants found in World After. I just love a tinge of creepy in my fantasy!
The magic is one of my favorite magical systems I’ve come across. It’s inventive and has established, easy to follow rules. The world building in general was great. We may or may not be a on a future Earth. Or it could be just a parallel Earth. There are many similarities but way more differences. I actually enjoy that we don’t get an answer on what exactly Stormwrack is as it leaves room for exploration in the future books. But the many, many seafaring nations of this world, and its societal rules and politics, are laid out in such a thorough but entertaining way. It takes serious skill to make political fantasy world building fun to read.
And really, one of the best things I can say about this book is that I was constantly entertained. Political fantasy is often very dry, but this really is such a delightful read. A lot of this has to do with how just plain entertaining it is to be in Sophie’s head. Her quirky charm saturates every page and she has the sort of silly internal conversations with herself that I often find myself doing. Conversations like this:
Dear Miss Manners, Sophie thought. The obnoxious but cute boy my half sister likes just bought me a tortoise shell full of dead flowers. Now she’s all hosed at me. What do I do?
In fact, the characters are really what made this book for me. Sophie is a charming, seriously weird, sassy, snarky, funny protagonist. I don’t usually come across characters as unique and refreshing as Sophie. She has a natural curiosity and scientific mind that helps her twist out of some tricky situations. And she has such a good, good heart. It’s just a pleasure to spend time with her. Her relationships with her brother and sister are so heartwarming and you know what a sucker I am for sibling relationships in books.
And there are such fun details. Someone magicked a stone giant into existence just to swim the seas. If you ever spot the giant it’s good luck. A jolly giant just roaming the seas bringing luck to those who spot him! Delightful! Oh, and super creepy moments like this:
“That’s–” Sophie said. “That’s a skull.” “It’s my father,” Dracy said. “He had his teeth scripped to shine as the sun. The intention survived his death.”
As always with me, what held me back from enjoying the book more was the romance (or lack thereof). There is a lot of potential for a certain couple here, but I’m afraid it never came to much more than shyly skirting around an attraction to each other. Still, I think things are definitely leaning a certain way for future volumes and I am in eager anticipation of that! Parrish is a dreamboat. Handsome, kind, stolid, and giving out smiles but sparingly. You know how I love my stoic captain (yes he is a captain!) types.
This book could easily be a standalone but I’m glad it’s not. The world is so expansive and interesting and there is so much to explore. We’ve still only seen a small corner. I can’t wait to see the further adventures of Sophie & co. And especially so if we get see some development in the romance department. You know how I’m hopeless like that.
This is fantasy that would actually make a great beach read. Perfect summertime fantasy. A story of a girl lost finding herself.