Sea of Shadows, by Kelly Armstrong

Review published on May 26, 2014.Reviewed by sara garland

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

Moria and Ashyn are twin sisters, charged as the Keeper and Seeker of the Forest of the Dead, which stands on the outskirts of their village of Edgewood. Here the worst criminals are exiled and the girls are charged with the dangerous task of releasing the enraged souls of the damned. Trained since young girls, as twins they are deemed in contact with the spirit world and through their actions are expected to protect the village and wider Empire.

The twins are quite different in character, Moria is the tougher cookie; she is commanding, no-nonsense and relishes a good fight. Ashyn is more caring and intensely reflective, although still resilient with a strong backbone. This year it is Ashyn’s turn to go into the forest to undergo her trial – only unbeknown to her, this year is different and the souls cannot be quietened. In the deeply creepy, malevolent forest everyone Ashyn enters with is killed. She herself is saved with the help of a cocksure, handsome, exiled thief called Ronin. As a result of their shared experience a bond is slowly formed. Whilst they strive to stay alive and return to the village, it transpires that lives outside the forest are also under threat.

Moria, alerted that all is not well seeks to ensure the safety of her sister. But she is watched over by the seriously moody and very difficult to read soldier, Gavril. As chaos reaches the village, the two are thrown together to try to understand what is happening and attempt to bring back some semblance of order. There is much more to Gavril that meets the eye and Moria is well matched to him with her equally challenging ways.

What ensues is a quest to warn the empire of the impending doom that is faced. During this journey, mythological beasts in the form of death worms, a thunder hawk and shadow stalkers appear and have to be battled with. Book 1 of Age of Legends trilogy leaves you at a pivotal point, wanting to determine what happens next.

Blended in the story are political, racial and social standing issues that subtly dabble with aspects of prejudice and indoctrination. There is a layer of horror built into the fate of some characters, so this isn’t for the fair hearted young adult reader. But this does make it grittier. There are some twists and turns with the characters, causing the dynamic of the relationships to change rapidly, keeping the tension and mystery elements nicely entrenched. The characters have many layers and so you are left aware there is much more to learn about them.

In all it is a steady and engaging read, albeit different to Armstrong’s usual style. There is a good balance between learning about the world the characters inhabit, from the social order in which they operate within, to character development in general. These along with the mythological and fantastical that incorporate many an action-packed battle, make for some very good gripping scenes.

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Celeste, by I.N.J. Culbard

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Gretel and the Dark, by Eliza Granville

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