Review: The Sea Between The Worlds

The Sea Between The Worlds – Gbahn and Archipelago Book 1

                             The Sea Between The WorldsAuthor: Michelle M. Welch

Gold Stars 3

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy ~

In a world where magic is feared at worst and publicly restrained at best, it is unheard of that such a tactic is resorted to in battle – and it is absolutely forbidden on the high seas.  But someone is breaking all the rules and no one is openly claiming responsibility, leaving the tentative peace and trade treaties among the vast sea nations of the Archipelago on edge.  A strong leader is needed on the one island not jaded by the power of magic, but with a society on the brink of falling apart bad management seems par for the course.  Follow Demmina, her cousin Loriene, and 2nd Lieutenant Daybreak as they work to understand their place in the midst of a world turned inside out.

Welch brings an interesting spin to the idea of the accessibility of magic – if a magician cannot touch a source with bare hands, performance is halted.  In the world of Gbahn and Archipelago, gloves are not just a sign of status, but a sign of magic chained.  The fear of magic from the average citizen is akin to the fear of never knowing who might be a terrorist.

Additionally, Welch’s understanding and use of nautical terminology immediately flavours a world of nations separated by vast seas.  Even readers unfamiliar with the language will easily come to understand and follow the jargon.  She also focuses on the idea of “humours” – the ancient understanding of human temperament as believed by physicians.  This is best revealed through Lt. Daybreak’s obsession with the state of his own humours – being nearly betrothed to a physician, this makes perfect and often humours sense.

However, when the enemy is an unknown nation it is difficult to build excitement.  The three characters Welch chooses as her eyes and ears for the story are distant and weak.  Not until half way through the novel do readers learn of Demmina’s importance in the plot, as she herself is simply a lost soul trying to maneuver the unfamiliar waters of high-court life without a clear want, purpose, or desire other than to help people (yet there’s a limit to her generosity and concern).  Daybreak wants a commission from 2nd to 1st Lieutenant but keeps being passed up (even though he does some awesome deducing on the job).  He toys with the question of love and lust, but the reader knows he doesn’t stand a chance at a relationship with a vigilante swordswoman – he’s just a victim of his humours after all.  And finally, Loriene, the only character who has a clear goal (vindication of sins done to her in her past) learns the truth behind her father’s reasons for teaching her to fight… and then goes wishy-washy on how to handle her future.

Welch consistently tells the story instead of immersing the reader in the action.  This removes the reader from an emotional attachment with the characters, turning the book into a plot with a bunch of people running around.  There are also inconsistencies of character to weigh in: as Loriene is kissed, fiercely, by a man who has never over-stepped his bounds with anyone, she should have at least punched him the face, if not held a make-shift blade to his throat for invading her personal space on such an intimate level.  Instead, she just scowls at him and thinks nothing of the interaction in future scenes.  Readers will also be astounded by Demmina’s sudden importance in the overall plot.  She has no merit other than the fact that she’s nice when many other people aren’t.  Her magic is average at best, she’s curious and interested in the rule of law, but not to any prolific degree, and she is at the perpetual mercy of those in power.

Finally, I find that the prologue is unnecessary, and occasionally the point of view chosen for a scene would have been better if viewed from a different character’s vantage point.  And then, the novel ends in suspense but not the good kind.  Reader will feel as if the climax to book one fell flat and this tie to book two is an abrupt cutting-off point.  If book one is unresolved, there is little hope for its sequel to fulfill the promise.

Review by M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor. Freelance Writer.

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