Sea of Shadows, by Kelley Armstrong

According to the author's note at the end of her new book Sea of Shadows, Kelley Armstrong has always wanted to write a full-blown epic fantasy, complete with “swords, sorcery, and the ravenous undead.” I'm a big fan of epic fantasy, zombie stories, and Armstrong's writing, so I figured the resulting novel would be a surefire win.

Armstrong's story is divided between two heroines: 16-year-old twin sisters Ashlyn and Moira. The girls have spent their entire lives training to become the Seeker and Keeper of the Forest of the Dead—the only people who can find and subdue the angry souls of the dead criminals exiled into the Forest. On Ashlyn's first official trip as Seeker, she discovers a horrifying power hiding in the woods—one that leads to the massacre of their village. Ashlyn and Moira (accompanied by a handsome young guard with a dark secret and an equally handsome convicted thief) set out to warn the emperor of the danger, but first they'll have to survive a trip trough the Wastes...

Much to my surprise, romance plays a bigger role in Sea of Shadows than practically anything else. The romantic storylines are admittedly intriguing, but they totally overshadow the rest of the story, making the novel feel less like actual epic fantasy and more like a romantic fanfic written about a group of epic fantasy characters. (Imagine if, say, the Harry Potter series had been told entirely through the lens of Ron and Hermione's romantic travails.) This isn't the first time I've complained about an Armstrong story being all romantic tension and no plot development, but I'm shocked she allowed the first book in a new series to get so bogged down by interpersonal stuff—normally this is the kind of will-they-or-won't-they angst we find in middle books, not series openers.
Posted by: Julianka


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