Micheline Ryckman sent me a digital ARC of The Lion of the Sea free of charge in exchange for a honest review.
I am not being compensated to write this review and all opinions are entirely my own.
The Lion of the Sea will be available on February 9th 2021.
This review contains spoilers.
This book contains a Black character being referred to as “witch”. I would like advise BIPoC readers to approach this book with care as this character may be rather harmful representation and a missed shot at diversity.
☾ about the book
Title: The Lion of the Sea
Author: Micheline Ryckman
Series: The Maiden Ship Trilogy
Prequel: The Maiden Ship
Format: novel, ebook (also available as paperback)
Trigger Warning: mention of torture, bodyhorror, sacrifices, death, possibly harmful representation of BIPoC characters
☾ the plot
“Perhaps the present, no matter how messy, is the perfect time to live.”
Family is not always blood, and home is where the heart is. It took Dain Alloway years to understand these foundational truths. Now the captain of The Maiden, surrounded by the found family he loves, Dain sets out to end a centuries-old genocide and prevent an oncoming war. But when the girl he loves is torn from his arms, Dain might be forced to choose between saving just her, or saving them all.
The Lion of the Sea is the second novel in Micheline Ryckman’s, The Maiden Ship, series. This YA fantasy adventure is chalk full of action filled scenes set upon the high seas. You’ll rejoin a loveable cast of characters from the first book and meet some nasty pirates and alluring mermaids along the way.
☾ the characters
Dain Alloway is struggling trying to juggle his responsibility as Captain of The Maiden with learning about the magic that he can wield.
And he is also struggling with the fact that Alis Alloway, the mother he thought dead, had been alive all these years – and his father kept Dain from knowing this.
Dain is determined to learn how he can prevent the Four Kingdoms from falling into evil hands, and he is willing to fight.
Alis Alloway did everything to protect her son from the Stalkers – so she supressed his memories of magic and fled to the carnival ship The Wildflower, on which she has gathered countless more adept.
Against his will, alis begins making decisions for Dain – about his talents and The Maiden.
In an attack on The Maiden, Sable is taken a prisoner and taken to Derchar where she is forcefully linked to a boy who can control her talents with his own.
She is supposed to help Valir, the emperor of what was once Derchar take over the Four Kingdoms.
However, she soon manages to escape.
Idris and Elden are two prisoners of Valir.
Idris is the boy who Sable is involuntarily tethered to and when Valir’s “witch” trusts Elden (who is Princess Ileana’s cursed lover) to help Sable escape, Sable refuses to leave Idris behind – even though he has a very powerful talent and fears for the safety of his sister back in Derchar.
☾ the world building
There are Four Kingdoms – Derchar, Ernham, Zaal and Iandior.
Dain is from Aalta, which is in Zaal, and most of the story is set in the waters around Zaal (and Ernham).
Unlike Ernham and Iandior, Derchar is of significant meaning, because after having cursed Ileana, Derchar is now ruled by the powerful adept – and it has been since centuries.
☾ the magic system
There are magic wielding people across the Four Kingdoms – they are called Adept.
Adepts can have one or more talents (magical abilities) that manifest at different points in their lives.
Adept can also be made (so they are not born), but besides the adept, magic creatures such as the red-cloaked floating Stalkers that are scared of the sea.
☾ the things i liked about this book
This book had just a little bit more action going on than the previous book.
Again, I feel like the characters and the idea of the plot are the best parts of this book.
I liked that new characters were introduced, and that old links were being severed for the sake of the plot, so I would go as far as saying that characters are this book’s strong suit.
☾ the things i didn’t like about this book
This book was, like it’s prequel, a mess.
Neither the magic system or the world building were expanded upon as I hoped they would be, so once again, two out of the three main components of the book were quite lackluster, and even the small sprinkle of action that this book had going for it couldn’t help with that.
Still, this book suffered an imbalance of character development and world building, which is sad, because it could have been fixed so easily.
I still couldn’t really connect to any of the characters, and in addition to that I have to say that Dain’s attitude towards his mother was, to put it bluntly, rather pissing me off.
Valir is only the idea of a compelling villain, but there is nothing to him than the classical “I-want-what-I-can’t-have” motivation to being a villain, and there is no background to his character beside his ambition. He’s a villain of threatening words and cruel actions, but I feel like he could have been way more interesting.
And when it comes to the representation of Black characters in this book, I think it really landed a shot in the dark.
Valir’s “witch” side-kick/traitor or whatever you want to call her – I don’t think her name is ever actually mentioned – was a case of this, and I just hate the fact that the word “witch” out of all words was the word “Sable” used to describe her. it’s just not a good look for the book as a whole, especially because Mo (another Black side-character who appears in the Prequel) is the exact opposite of this and it just doesn’t add up for me.
In addition to that, there are two Caucasian characters with albinism in this book – and just like Mo, they are the token “exotic” characters – that’s a red flag. I initially thought they were Black (which the author has cleared up since) which would have made it even worse, but yeah, it’s a red flag nonetheless, because people with a genetic disorder are being referred to as “scary” and “ancient” and they make the main characters uncomfortable.
☾ would i recommend this book
Again, I would recommend it to people who are either just starting out reading fantasy or are younger than 17.
For older YA readers who know what their tastes are like, this book might be a waste of time.
I gave this book half a star more because the first third was promising and had me really intrigued, and it started out a lot better than The Maiden Ship did, but unfortunately, I quickly lost interest in the book after that.
I continued to read it regardless, and I tried my best to remain impartial to the fact that I wasn’t interested in the story line anymore as I did, just because I felt like I had an obligation to finish this ARC.
I hope that the third book in this trilogy will give its readers the information about world building and magic system that the reader needs in order to really immerse themselves into this really hopeful idea of a book, but just like The Maiden Ship, The Lion of the Sea in my eyes suffered a great deal of imbalance between its components that I had hoped would be fixed. This was, unfortunately, not the case.