Release Date: April 8, 2014
Published by: HarperCollins
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.
Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.
Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.
This read to me a bit like a video game or a horror movie. Lots of action, in particular the gruesome scenes in the creepy, creepy Forest of the Dead, with cool legendary monsters (thunder hawks and shadow stalkers and death worms and snow dragons and many, many more mentioned that I suspect we'd get introduced to later) and a fantasy world full of its politics between races and honorary duties and complications (e.g. lots of tribes/clans, discussions of what it means to be a warrior/in different castes). It's also got an easy to identify with premise behind a lot of that action: what if the monsters that you'd once told tales of were actually real? Plus each girl has got her own romance and character arc fitted to their separate responsibilities as Keeper and Seeker of Edgewood. It's easy to at least be empathetic to Moria and Ashyn given the horrors they witness and the way they handle their responsibilities, Ashyn doubting herself with so much at stake (putting to rest all those spirits and having to see what they endured) and Moria promoting herself as this brash, self-confident warrior-girl who loudly demands the respect from all.
Ultimately, however, this novel was not for me. It's got a pretty distant narration style, hence why I said it read like a video game or horror movie. The action is well choreographed and creepy and the novel full of adventure, but because there's this palpable distance, I didn't feel invested in the characters or world. It would be cool to experience this world in another form nonetheless. Sea of Shadows is more of a world-building and action-oriented fantasy novel, and I'd recommend it to those readers first. I can't tell you whether it measures up to other Armstrong novels, as I've only read some of her short stories.