In this highly original, vividly depicted world, ships powered by magical flames sail across an ocean of exotic grasses. Crews harvest the lucrative psychoactive plants, although the area around the principal island has been growing increasingly barren of such prizes. A mob boss is gradually taking control of the free ships by rationing their access to drinking water, a vanishingly rare resource. The Forever Sea presents its own dangers. Pirates sail the grasses, of course. Exceptionally nasty ones, who slaughter vanquished captains for their bones to fuel the flames. Below the surface, dragons lurk, as well as even more fantastically gruesome, lethal creatures. For any ship that can reach it, the legendary Once City beckons.
Into this world comes Kindred, a young hearthfire keeper with a rare, intuitive gift for singing to the flames. Granddaughter to a legendary captain, Kindred struggles against both the ordinary dangers of the Forever Sea and the restrictions of the hearthfire keeper academy. To make matters worse, her grandmother has disappeared, leaving cryptic messages about the world beneath the surface of the sea. Kindred’s voyage will test her loyalty to her ship, captain, and crewmates, against the longing of her heart to follow in her grandmother’s path.
This is a huge, gorgeous story. The world-building is highly original and filled with brilliant details. The characters have depth and complexity, and most of all, heart. Their choices – loyalty to the ship, to each other, to themselves – their mistakes and losses and triumphs, their loves and grudges, all exemplify what it is to be human. At times the narrative read like prose poetry, and I had to slow down to savor it.
Superb storytelling in a brilliantly original world with memorable characters make The Forever Sea a stand-out.