Sorry for the delay bookworms, but here it is – my full post for Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron! I am participating in the Sea of Strangers Blog Tour, hosted by Chapter by Chapter, which I am so excited about! Unfortunately weather, travelling and family commitments delayed this post, but I am still excited to share it with you all! For the remainder of the blog tour stops, or to check out previous stops, check here!
Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron is the second book in an epic fantasy series titled the Ryogan Chronicles (you can find my review for Island of Exiles here), by Cameron, which will be released on December 5th, 2017. The Ryogan Chronicles is currently predicted to be a trilogy, so there’s at least one more book to look forward to in this fresh and exciting fantasy series (Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader Copy of Sea of Strangers from Entangled Teen in exchange for an honest review)!
The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal. Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.
I had really enjoyed the first book in this series, Island of Exiles, and I couldn’t wait to read the next installment in this sprawling YA fantasy series! With engaging characters, human struggles, a society that (in some ways) is reflective of our own, and an engaging mission, I couldn’t imagine what I wouldn’t like about this one!
I have to spend a moment here talking about the fantastic world building in this series: It’s complex, diverse in so many ways and oh-so-amazing for the reader! As with Island of Exiles, I simply loved the sprawling nature of Sea of Strangers. Cameron immersed readers in a rich and intense culture – one that is similar but unique to the culture explored in Island of Exiles. The Ryogans have their own prejudices and problems, and they are also subject to the changing nature of their environment, just of the residents of Shiara are, but this new continent also brings with it a while new host of problems, beliefs and magical understandings. There are (seemingly) no easy solutions to this struggle, and new information emerges at every turn, quickly grabbing the reader’s attention and hanging onto it as the story progresses. Furthermore, the magic system was well established in Island of Exiles, and while complex and vast, it did not feel too overwhelming – although I would recommend a quick re-read of Island of Exiles to refresh yourself. Each new power was explained, and each caste of magic-wielder has a title and a role, making it easy to follow along. And, perhaps more importantly, this character and term heavy novel featured both a character list and a glossary.
Now, on to the plot of Sea of Strangers. As mentioned, the plot is quick, action-packed and full of twists and turns. Not only this but the plot just flows so instinctively and never feels forced. The characters are faced with situations and frustrations that make so much sense and there’s absolutely no unrealistic surprises which I can definitely appreciate! As I have mentioned before, a pet-peeve of mine is when authors create some mythical power and/or item at the last moment that is conveniently capable of solving all the problems presented throughout the story in one fell swoop. Cameron instead sticks to her guns, with minimal alterations to the pre-established magic system, and what few new reveals she does insert are far from what could be described as the Holy Grail of solutions.
While this was a fantastic and epic fantasy adventure that will certainly have fans of the YA Fantasy genre intrigued, it was the inclusive nature of Cameron’s writing that really reeled me in. The diversity is amazing and what I love about it is that it is so raw and genuine without ever being forced upon the reader that ‘this book is diverse’. It’s not there for the sake of being diverse – it just is diverse. There’s diversity of culture, of skin colour, of gender (including a third gender), of sexuality (including asexuality). Cameron handled to topic of LGBTQ2+ characters, racial diversity and cultural diversity with ease, twisting the topics together until they felt natural within the society she has created. I especially lied how, at the beginning of the novel, Cameron had a character list. While this is not uncommon, especially in YA Fantasy novels with large casts, it was something else that Cameron included on this list that caught my eye – she included the preferred pronouns of all of her characters (he/him, she/her, em/eir). Beyond this, Cameron also tackles the topic of prejudice against individuals of supposed “deviant” sexual prejudices and different abilities/physical features. While the society in Shiara was generally accepting of these differences, the Ryogans are less so, and this is perhaps a reflection of our own society.
Overall, readers of the genre will really enjoy this addition to this fantasy series by Erica Cameron, which presents a sprawling, diverse world with complex issues and a wealth of magical power. Readers will be ensnared by the scope of the world Cameron is creating, but also by the depth of the characters, and the humanity behind their struggles (4.5/5).