Seaborn, by Chris Howard
March 20, 2009
Seaborn is about a magic-using, aquatic race of beings that secretly live in the Earth’s oceans. Kassandra is a granddaughter of the seaborn king, she was raised in exile on dry land and has a difficult time dealing with her powerful hereditary magic. And Corina is a human who, while diving, becomes possessed by an imprisoned seaborn sorcerer named Aleximor. Kassandra prepares to challenge her grandfather, while Aleximor uses Corina’s body to gather an army of the dead that he can use for his revenge.
Kassandra and Corina have a lot of differences, but they’re alike in one unique way. Thanks to Corina’s possession and the magic that allows some of Kassandra’s opinionated ancestors to communicate with her, neither young woman is ever truly alone in her own head. This complete lack of privacy helped keep Kassandra a sympathetic character despite her occasionally ruthless actions. On one hand she has this immense power, but she’s also constantly watched, peppered with advice, and unsure if some of her reactions are her own. I felt sorry for Corina because she was trapped, but it was admirable to see the way she tried to figure things out instead of completely giving up.
I have to say that I had a hard time getting into this one. Howard has a very evocative style, and the setting is interesting and original. But we get so quickly immersed in this different world that it felt like it took an unusual amount of time to get acclimated and feel confident in my sense of what was going on, which made it hard for me to relax and get lost in the story. Even once I got my sea legs (har), I still found myself having to stop and refocus on some scenes to understand them – especially anything involving Aleximor’s magic. The book bounces between the main characters fairly quickly at the start, so just when I was beginning to get really drawn in it seemed like we were off to a different situation. Also, Kassandra and her family referred to earlier events often enough that at times I felt like I had missed some important backstory.
I may not have gotten as swept up in the story as I’d have liked, but after finishing it I’d say that Seaborn was worth the effort. The world-building was fascinating, and I’d like to read more about the underwater culture. There were some nice political aspects of the plot, which is something that I always love. Some of the descriptions were beautiful, and the characters were all pretty fascinating – with the unfortunate exception of Aleximor. He seemed a little dull for a nefarious sorcerer, and his revenge plan was surprisingly straightforward considering that he’d had 200 years to plan. Thankfully he’s not the only challenge that the characters face, and Kassandra’s grandfather is nasty enough to pick up any slack in the villain department.
I think this is one of those books that would really benefit from a second read, and I’m certainly hoping to see a follow up soon.