Warnings: Death, sparkles, tropes
"Threats of Sky and Sea" by Jennifer Ellision is about Breena Rose, a secretly talented, feisty and gorgeous young woman on the cusp of adulthood who is being seriously underutilized as a barmaid. She has a run-in with some unsavory folks and discovers her daddy has been hiding her away from the world these last 16 years, and now she is to return to court and learn how to be a lady, kick ass at magic, meet a handsome prince all while trying to free her father. I gotta say, the lady keeps busy!
So before I say anything else, I have to state that I had fun reading this book. It was cute like a little puppy. I am going to see about getting the second one on my own steam.
As I have seen it mentioned, this book hits several YA adult tropes. That's accurate, it's plot points in bullet form read like a lot of other YA fiction. However these are feel-good story elements that are repeated so often because people like them. For example, the young woman in peril who takes charge of her own destiny is a trope I can get behind, no questions asked. Puberty being a time when magic blossoms and destinies are discovered sounds way cooler than the average high school experience. What's more notable to me are the tropes not taken. Ellison slips right around creating a love triangle, which makes me so happy words can not express. She also puts together her own magic system, to which I have a major weakness. Plus she doesn't shy away from killing off a character or two, which is a requirement for me to respect a book.
She also maintains an air of suspense around some of the major plot points. There's a lot left unexplained about the world, the magic system, and (to a lesser extent) Breena's past. It's likely this is a result of this being part of a several book long series, but regardless of the reason it's important to leave readers wanting more in any story. Ellison delivers in this respect. I don't just want to know what happens next, I'm curious about Neridium and the factors that determine one's magical element (crossing my fingers it's like how amphibians determine sex).
I do have a few less than complimentary points I want to raise though. Ellison spends more time explaining things that should be left to the reader to figure out. My impression is that the inexperience of the main character, Breena, is a convenient mechanism to enable explanations about the setting to the readers. It means we get paragraphs describing things like how the magic system works in the abstract in Breena's internal narration, as well as how Breena feels about it. To a lesser degree it means she acts as a stand-in for the audience to express confusion as to why things are the way they are. It makes everything feel a little flatter than it could. I would have liked to see more effort made to teach readers about a world the same way they learned about this one: through context and a certain amount of sassing one's elders. I chalk that one up to Ellison's inexperience as a professional writer, which means I look forward to seeing how her writing will mature.
Like a said, cute like a puppy. It's a nice story with accessible prose and I'm interested in seeing how everything develops.