Title: Sea of Shadows (Age of Legends #1)
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: April 8th, 2014
Summary: Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author, takes an exciting new direction with this big, breathtaking blend of fantasy, romance, horror, and pulse-pounding action, perfect for fans of Graceling and Game of Thrones.
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.
This book claims to be “perfect for fans of Graceling and Game of Thrones” but speaking as a fan of both, I have to disagree. Graceling and Game of Thrones are both full of complex characters, action, interesting fantasy, great world building, the list goes on. While this book does have some action, it’s not really engaging, the fantasy elements and world building that go with it are a little bland and the characters aren’t particularly memorable. I read some of Kelley Amrstrong’s other books a few years ago and remember enjoying them (although my taste back then was questionable at best) but this book was very disappointing.
So Moria and Ashyn are a couple of hot, strawberry blonde twinsies with polar opposite personalities. Moria is hotheaded and bold and idiotic while Ashyn is calm and collected and overly sympathetic. It’s like a two-for-one cliche package deal. Woo hoo. They are in charge of putting spirits to rest and keeping there village safe. A job they apparently suck at. Ashyn fails to put the spirits to rest and Moria does nothing to protect the village as everyone is slaughtered by swirling death shadows. So Moria of course gets pissed and Ashyn just feels terrible because it’s possibly her fault so they set out to try and save the children left and warn everyone. And what ensues is actually a bit of a snore-fest.
It’s not that I hated Moria and Ashyn, it’s just that they were both huge cliches. It’s bad enough having one in a book, but now we have two. Moria is constantly being retarded and rushing into situations without thinking, a “warrior”. Ashyn is constantly feeling sorry for herself and crying over other people and being a damsel in distress. They are supposedly special with their Keeper/Seeker powers but that only comes into play in the beginning and like one other part where they hear spirits whispering to them. I was really hoping that their abilities to communicate to the spirits would come into play, like to help them escape places or help them during fights or anything. But it’s virtually non existent through the story. And with every couple of chapters going to the other girl’s point of view, I felt like you don’t really get enough time with either girl to get to know them, let alone each love interest too.
Speaking of love interests, Ronan and Gavriel really missed the mark for me. They are both fairly interesting characters, but we never really get time to get to know them, Ronan especially. Gavriel got a little more time because he was more important to the story, but I never felt like I knew them as a character. They were just names on the page, playing their parts and that was about it. It was like the story itself was slow but the characters were rushed. Ronan was just kind of constantly popping ion and out of Ashyn’s story line, doing sneaky thief things and saying mushy stuff to make Ashyn’s romantic little heart leap. Then Gavriel was being a sulky poop, fighting off guys with his big man muscles, keeping mysterious secrets (which I knew almost immediately what they were) and popping boners over Moria wiggling in his lap while hiding from bad guys. There was a lack of depth, more so when it came to Ronan.
The book started off okay. People were being taken to the Forest of the Dead and left to die, hopefully at the hands of unimaginable horrors. Then people in Ashyn’s party start dying and there is lots of blood and hearts impaled on branches, and I started to get excited. After that though, things started to go downhill. The girls start to travel separately through The Wastes and it slows down. The back and forth of the point’s of view really took away from the sense of urgency for either character and it was just boring. In a few chapters, party one makes it through to the nearest city. Oh, but wait, now we go back to party two and they have to make it through to the city. Okay now back to party one facing crap in the city. Wait, back to party two also facing crap in the city. It made me angry and tired at the same time. And the whole thing with all the beasts and monsters from legend coming back could have been really cool. I was excited to see what attacked them but we got a giant acid spitting worm and a big bird. Which were taken care of with a few slices of a sword. Then everything was all good. Yawn.
Another problem is that a lot of the elements of this story just don’t seem to connect. There is some random Japanese stuff thrown in with family names and things, but I never really get a Japanese vibe. There are all sorts of different skin tones being described but everyone seems like they were living relatively close to each other so I’m not sure how all the different races got where they were and what separates them. Then some things just don’t make sense, how spirits are known to be real, but shadow stalkers or possession or god forbid, sorcery are absolutely positively impossible. There isn’t really any world building or history or politics that would make a lot of this make sense. Instead, you just feel confused.
I really had high hopes for this book. It has a cool summary but the execution is terrible. Everything is either too rushed or drags on way too long. Characters are bleh, romance is bleh, world building is basically non existent. I was engaged during certain parts of this book, so it wasn’t terrible. I’m just not sure if it’s worth your time. Maybe if you are a fast reader and don’t mind skimming a lot of chapters. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.