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ARC provided by the publisher—DAW Books—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover art illustrated by: Marc Simonetti
The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Forever Sea (Book #1)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 464 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 26th January 2021 by Titan Books (UK) & 19th January 2021 by DAW Books (US)
Wonderful world-building and beautifully written, but unfortunately it’s a bit lacking in characterizations and pacing.
I’ve mentioned it so often but Marc Simonetti is seriously one of my favorite cover artists, and the US edition of The Forever Sea is illustrated by him. I won’t lie, the extraordinarily wonderful cover art was the main reason why I wanted to read this book. I mean, just look at it! It totally captured the beauty of the world portrayed in the book. I’m not sure why, but somehow Simonetti’s artwork rarely graced the cover art of US/UK published novels, and I think that situation desperately needs to change. Now, regarding the quality of the story itself, I have to sadly admit that I have mixed feelings about it.
“That’s how she ended all of her letters to me. She told me once that love didn’t have to do anything other than exist. You don’t have to dress it up or compare it to something else; when it is, it’s miracle enough.”
The story revolves around Kindred Greyreach. a hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard The Errant who suddenly receives the devastating news that her grandmother—The Marchess, a legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has disappeared into The Forever Sea, which is a never-ending expanse of prairie grasses. However, in the note that The Marchess left for her, she states that it’s not a suicide; there’s something beyond the Forever Sea that she needs to find. And so Kindred sets out to follow her grandmother’s footsteps, whatever it takes.
To be honest, for the first half of the novel, I did think that this was going to be continuously wonderful. The world-building was incredibly impressive; distinctive, intricate, and it remains that way throughout the whole book. Plus, Johnson has a beautiful prose that made the Ghibli-esque setting of the world so imaginable and vivid. I definitely agree without a doubt that the quality of the world-building and prose lived up to the stunning cover art that Simonneti illustrated.
“To fall into the grasses of Forever Sea was to fall through them. The grasses were like hair, capable of holding nothing up on their own. Whatever magic gave growth and body to the Forever Sea, whatever magic the beasts of the Sea had also been granted in order to ascend and descend—none of it extended to humanity, who dropped through Sea, dead weight falling without slowing.”
Admittedly, the world-building and prose were the only things that clicked with me. I found the narrative to be too repetitive, and the details contained in world-building did hurt the pacing of the book. I do wish that Kindred wasn’t the only memorable character within the entire book, the non-stop rashness of her actions made her really hard to like; she’s the type of character that constantly does things without thinking. I’m not saying that she’s thoroughly unlikeable, but I do feel that her character and motivations need more exploration for me to care about her more.
“On the table, books full of graphs and numbers and charts lay open, and scattered around and atop these were notes and letters of all types. She longed to rake her eyes over and through this written chaos, to wriggle through the tiny nettles of the pages and lose herself in them. Words, when written, were a labyrinth she could wander forever.”
Overall, The Forever Sea has an admirable world-building, beautiful prose, and stunning cover art, but I found the characters and characterizations department to be slightly lacking. I do think that The Forever Sea will work incredibly well for those who prioritized magnificent world-building in their fantasy read. I’m not sure how many books are planned for this series, but I do hope that the next book will have an improvement in characterizations and pacing.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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