The last few books I’ve reviewed in here have been less than favorable. So, let’s review a book I actually liked!
Sea and Soul, by Shari Branning
An evil queen sits on the throne, and the Seer has seen a curse is coming.
When empath Dylan Blaine is summoned to a gala on the Isle of Selkies, he knows it will likely spell his doom. But you can’t turn down a summons from a seer. His fears are justified when he encounters Lyselle, a sorceress who wants his power for her own.
Selkie heiress Kiah of Lomasi doesn’t know what help she could possibly be in the Seer’s game against the Witch Queen, but then disaster strikes as they’re leaving the gala, and she’s the only one who can save Dylan’s life.
Will Dylan, Kiah, and a handful of others that the Seer has brought together be able to navigate court politics, black magic, assassins, and monsters to keep their country from destruction? Or will the Witch Queen, who’s been sacrificing people with magic to feed her own stolen powers, end them all?
Sea and Soul is the first book in the Seer’s Gambit series, but can be read on its own or out of order.
This book is kind of like urban fantasy, but it’s not. It’s kind of like paranormal romance, but it’s not. This is almost a fairytale set in modern day. It has an evil stepmother queen, witches, princesses, selkies, werewolves, elves, and a cursed forest. But it also has guns, helicopters, motorboats, cars, and cell phones. In fact, people use magic mirrors and cellphones side by side. The setting is based on Alaska, so the city is built on a rugged coast of cliffs and restless seas. I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy book set in Alaska.
Dylan is an empath, which means he has the ability to sense other people’s feelings. Instead of this making him touchy-feely, it makes him grouchy and snarky. Also, he’s been in fear for his life for years, because everybody wants an empath. A king with a leashed empath could always tell who his enemies are, or could control the emotions of anyone around him. The evil witch-queen wants him. Her sister, another witch, wants him. The elves want him, the selkies want him, everybody wants Dylan and his powers.
Thing is, humans don’t have magic. Dylan, as a human and being an empath, is very rare, and not exactly magic. For humans to get magic, they have to become a sorcerer and steal the magic from one of the magical races by sacrificing them and taking it from their blood. So for a witch queen to be in control of a country of magicals … this is really bad.
Dylan and a small group of others are brought together by the Seer and told that they need to become friends, because they’re going to have to work together to take down the witch queen and save their country. If they don’t, the whole country will be cursed, like the neighboring country of Marieadd, which got cursed after a war where everybody misused magic. That’s the whole cursed forest thing. The group aren’t sure about this, because everybody has their own secrets. But this isn’t a team-up book. Each of these characters will get their own books, and let me tell you, I want them all.
Dylan walks out the door and is attacked by the witch, Lyselle, who wants this empath under her thumb before her sister gets to him. She puts a subjugation spell on him, which he fights until he’s almost dead. But he’s saved by Kiah, a selkie whose only magic is sea-based. (Selkies are a sort of were-seal.) To save Dylan and break the subjugation spell, Kiah has to replace it with a stronger spell–that of her coat, which in selkie culture, is how they get married.
So Dylan wakes up with this pretty white glowing tattoo thing wrapped across his chest and back, and it’s Kiah’s coat, and it can’t come off. So … they’re married and it’s awkward because they only met the previous night. Whoops.
So now, as they work together to fight the queen and Lyselle and help their friends, Dylan and Kiah have this growing attraction as they awkwardly try to date and get to know each other. The action kicks off and never lets up, with the queen drawing the net tighter and tighter. I won’t spoil any more, but it has a heck of an ending. Dylan learns to weaponize his empath powers, and it’s terrific.
Whenever I’ve read a book with someone who can sense feelings, it’s always a girl doing it. To have a guy who senses feelings … and then makes wisecracks … was oddly refreshing and fun. Dylan smarts off to his enemies, even when it costs him. There’s a lovely theme of faith and the power that faith bestows. There’s a wonderful picture of love vs lust and how different they are.
I’d recommend this book for teens and up. Even though it has the imagination and action of a young adult novel, the characters are in their 20s, and … well, I just mentioned the love vs lust thing. Nothing is shown, and there’s only a few hot kisses, but there’s quite a lot of stuff implied, if you get my meaning. Such as what the witch wants to do to Dylan. In Dylan’s own words, “Ew!”
I can’t wait for the next books with the other characters. Also, I did the cover art!