Book Review – Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

★★★★ 4 Stars

Genre: Adventure / Post-Apocalyptic
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018
Publisher: Razorbill

“Four years ago this had been a fantasy. Trapped on a beach with nothing but a gut wound, her best friend, and this very ship in pieces. Caledonia could only dream of the day she had the means to stand up and fight. It had come sooner than she could have hoped, the morning Pisces looked at her square in the eyes and said she wanted revenge. It came as they bent their minds to the task of recovering their ship. It came one girl at a time.”

Oh, I am conflicted. Flighty as the tides that carry in the flotsam and treasure alike. Let me just say that I adore this novel. In most aspects, I do. But the traits I didn’t like are extremely troubling in a relentless way that niggles at the back of your head. This book is its own contained Stop & Go Station, a whiplash of dark and urgent and whimsical and tranquil that is still somehow extremely addictive either way it goes. But it also makes you nervous because it’s very obvious when someone’s bound to die.

I really appreciate the simpler prose. Parker doesn’t inject what is really a pretty straightforward story with lacy, flowery padding. My biggest issue was how the characterization was handled, but I’ll get to that. The plot of Seafire concerns a young woman, Caledonia, who along with her best friend, Pisces are the sole survivors of a massacre upon their ship, in some kind of apocalyptic era where the world is extremely hot and oceanic. The waters are controlled by a warlord named Aric Athair who forcibly recruits children and turns them into soulless murder machines.

The praise suggested it was inspired by the film Fury Road, which I was afraid, because it was the praise that compared the two, that Seafire would just be a straight rip-off. Thankfully, it’s not, though there are distinct shades of that movie in this. If you liked it, you’d probably like this too. I did, anyway.

I’ll stop stalling and get to my problems, though I don’t want to. I’ll admit that I’m willing to ignore lackluster characterization if the book is otherwise really enjoyable, which in this case it is, but Seafire’s only true, genuine weakness is not giving enough time to flesh out one character before introducing three more. Like, in the beginning when we’re getting to know Caledonia’s crew, and several people are starting to be introduced, like Amina and Far and Redtooth, and then a character who is developed only to die immediately after, and then several more crew members come onto the scene. I feel like too much time is spent on minor characters and so in the end we’re acquainted with the main cast, but barely more than the one-shot characters. I generally liked all of the characters, but it’s difficult to get attached to anyone when they may or may not even show up again.

What makes it so prominent I think, is that Caledonia’s character is actually extremely well-written. She’s definitely an anti-heroine at best, with a strong essential sense of morality but hoist by her own prejudice and misgivings quite often.
I like that they gave the protagonist realistic strengths and faults and had a decent all-female cast without like, shilling this cynical message about “girl power” that’s pervasive in modern young adult books. The Mors Navis crew are strong because they work for survival, and they have their weaknesses as anyone else does. And Caledonia isn’t always in the right, either. In the beginning she’s pretty sexist, hardhearted and bloodthirsty. You know, a pirate. Then I think it begins to dawn on her that there is more depth to even her enemies than she dares to seek out.

Oh, and the introduction of the love interest for Caledonia severely disappointed me. Caledonia and Pisces should have been the romance, even if just a platonic girlfriends thing, because the alternative does not make sense. I can’t say it and not spoil a major factor of the story, but the budding romance at the end sucks. Caledonia and Pisces known each other since birth, practically. And their dialogue edges on romantic and intimate nearly every scene. How are they not a couple?

All my character ranting aside, I did ultimately have a lot of fun reading Seafire and I would recommend it. Despite my conflict with certain things, unless they somehow metastasize in the next book, I will call this one a favourite. The blend of genres is interesting and unpredictable, and it flows so easily that despite the size, it could probably have flown by in a few hours before you knew it.

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