Wednesday, April 2, 2014

DNF Review: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

Review: Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Release date: April 8, 2014
 Publisher: HarperCollins
Series: Yes, #1 in the Age of Legends series
Source: e-ARC via Edelweiss
Length: 416
Rating: This book is hard work.


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. It's not the worst book I've ever read, but it's kind of a mess, and my head hurt so much trying to piece it all together that I sadly had to throw in the towel.

 I've heard that Armstrong's other books were very readable, but my biggest problem with Sea of Shadows is that it's not. The action is always so unclear that I struggled to comprehend the basic actions that were being described to me. I couldn't see what was going on, and i didn't know why anything was happening, and the worldbuilding is all just kind of flung at you.

Oh, and the worldbuilding. I feel like if you cleared away half the much standing in the way, there could be an excellent story underneath. Ashyn and Moria are these magicky twin people who... do something with the spirits? Anyway, there's this forest, and because executions are banned in the Empire in which they live, criminals are banished into this forest, where they're certain to die. Ashyn and Moria are key parts in the ritual for harvesting their bodies and guiding their souls to heaven once they're dead. I still don't understand WHAT Moria is meant to do with this, or where she even is during the actual dead-seeking part, but whatever.

Unfortunately, it takes sooo long and mutliple POV switches before we learn that core kernel of information. Before that we get the exiles, we get to be in this boy Ronan's head, we get daemon-type creatures, curses, spirits, and so on and so forth. None of the worldbuilding has any sort of cohesive unity, either, being a kind of mish mash of things. The worst offender is the use of the word "kitsune". Kitsune is the Japanese word for fox and features prominently in Japanese mythology. Here it's used as the last name of a character who is in no way remotrely connected to Japan or Japanese mythology, but did mae me think of Stormdancer a lot. Then there's there's Moria, who makes me think of this:

And the dude named Ronan made me think of The Raven Boys. And nothing quite felt right or original or cohesive. None of the characters were grabbing me. Ashyn is a blank Scrabble tile, though I guess Moria had her moments. Ashyn's POV chapters were a wash, but Moria's had glimmers of promise. Just when I'd start to settle in and enjoy Moria's point of view, something would happen that was so unclear it would thow me right out of my reading groove. I was Cuzco, and I was just trying to groove, but the old man wouldn't let me.

There's a scene where a dead body gets... possessed? I think? And I had to read the page at least four times to understand that. And I only got that not because of the literal words on the page, but because I ASSUMED it must be that. I read around the prose instead of from it. A lot of the book was like this. I had to work to comprehend even its most basic realities.

The pacing is incredibly slow, though I will give this novel credit for high body count and definitely going there with the creepiness. I was actually rather horrifying at times. There's a kind of almost romance happening between Moria and Gavril, the Kitsune boy with dreadlocks and green eyes and tattoos, where they pretend they hate each other but duh, deep inside they are warm for each other's forms.

But the plot just doesn't progress at all, and, in fact, I don't know what the main thrust of the book is. I understand that there are Bad Things in the Forest, but I don't understand what Ashyn and Moria want or what's keeping them from getting it. I don't understand the world I'm in, so I can't comfortably put my feet down. And I can't understand the action in front of me, so I can't enjy what I'm reading in the moment.


  1. Aww the cover looks so cool too. It's a bummer it's one of those messy, complicated books. You gave it a try and that's all that matters!!

  2. Heh. We had the exact same thoughts about pretty much everything. Pity we couldn't have saved each other the trouble.

  3. It's a shame that you didn't like this one! It does seem pretty confusing. At least you gave it a try! I like how you had the gif of Lord of the Rings, that made me laugh. That's exactly what I thought of when I saw the name in the summary. Hopefully you've found some other books to enjoy since this book!

  4. Oh thank god! I was beginning to think I was the only one. I've read 5 or 6 of Kelley's books and have thoroughly enjoyed them, but from the first page of Sea of Shadows I was like wtf is this? We're just thrown into the story with no idea what's going on or who anyone is or why they're there or what their purpose is and...huh?? I think I DNF'd at about 20% which made me really sad but I just couldn't do it.
    Now excuse me while I go watch The Emperor's New Groove. <3

  5. Dang girl, I'm reading this one right now and I just hit 20%. I can see what you're saying, some of it is pretty confusing to follow, but I'm too interested to find out is really going on to quit. I'll be sure to let you know what happens if you want. That is if it ends up coming together in the end. But I do think this is the first book in a series?

  6. Oooh, you do not DNF often. This makes me curious.

    I am confused by your summation, which probably makes more sense than the book, so I can see why you were not happy.

    Also, I was just about to snarkily ask if Moria had mines and then I saw the GIF. BRAIN TWIN.

    See, the thing is that Armstrong was really good at writing basic, not mind blowing paranormal romances. Like, there weren't amazing, but the writing, characters and story were decent. They were quick reads and reliably entertaining. It sounds like she wanted to try something different with a broader scope, but that doesn't seem to have worked out.


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