J. Brandon Lowry’s debut fantasy novel, set on an island, follows the struggles of orphaned siblings who embark on a quest to find their destiny and understand their deceased parents’ dark past.
Sophie Farrier, 14, and her older brother Damon live with their aunt and uncle in the small village called Seaside, a place where “boring” and “ordinary” are complimentary terms—and anything that upsets the mundanities of daily life is to be shunned. So when an unconscious stranger washes up on the shoreline—covered in tattoos and wearing a strange amulet—most citizens want to throw him back into the sea.
After Damon helps save the man, the Seaside inhabitants’ monotonous lives are quickly turned upside down. The man turns out to be a mythical Navigator on a quest to save countless lives—and after he leaves to return to his mission, a monstrous aquatic ruler known as the Merling King arrives with his army of crustaceous creatures shaped like men. The king states that the village owes him the Navigator’s life and if the man isn’t delivered to him by the next moon, the entire village will be destroyed.
As Sophie follows the Navigator, hoping he’ll facilitate her journey of self-discovery, her brother battles his own demons as he’s forced to revisit his parents’ bizarre deaths.
Lowry’s novel is nothing short of a towering masterwork of imagination—sure to satisfy even the most discerning reader, from middle grade to adult. It offers gloriously deep character development; forceful themes (finding one’s place in the world, etc.); nonstop action and adventure, and rich world-building. But it’s the author’s mesmerizing narrative voice, powered by a sense of whimsy and wonder (describing imaginative Sophie, he writes, that “she fits into Seaside about as well as a whale fits into a rowboat…”) that makes the book truly memorable.
Blending the timeless tone of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy with the action and adventure of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride, this is a story to be cherished.
Also available as an ebook.