An engaging, if predictable, YA fantasy novel, Threats of Sky and Sea brings the importance of family and friendship to the fore in this debut novel for Jennifer Ellision. Most importantly, this novel is written in first-person subjective. When was the last time you read a YA fantasy novel in first person subjective? Possibly never.
Breena Perdit lives in the far North of Egria, working as a barmaid in her father’s tavern. She loves this life. Father and daughter barely make ends meet, but Bree has dreams of turning their tavern around. With her father as her best friend, Bree cannot imagine a better life.
Of course, this means everything falls apart in the first ten pages.
Wishes, I am finding, are fickle things when they turn on you.
Three Elementals, or Adepts as the Royal military calls them, arrive one day and call Bree’s father out as a traitor to the throne. Her father imprisoned and suddenly the heiress to a duchy, Bree finds herself quickly wrapped up in political intrigue, danger, magic, and a bit of romance. Obviously, the King is mad with power, and it’s up to Bree and her friends to spring her father and escape the King. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that trope seems to drive the motivations of our antagonists. So begins a bit predictable, but still enjoyable, book.
First, let’s talk about the first person subjective. I haven’t read a book in first person subjective (I/We are the singular and plural pronouns used) fiction novel in a long time. This is typically used for autobiographical writing. In the case of Threats of Sky and Sea, I found it refreshing. The first few chapters were a bit weak, though. It felt like Ellision was only getting used to writing in this style and never went back to correct it. But, by the fourth chapter or so the style had improved significantly.
If they tell me one more time that I’m useing the wrong fork for a part of a meal, I swear I’ll show them exactly how multifunctional the utensil can be.
This perspective really allows the reader to get to know Bree intimately. She is a strong, feisty, intelligent, temperamental character. And I loved her almost at once. Bree is obviously overwhelmed with the changes in her life at first, but she chooses to be patient instead of whiny. She uses what knowledge she has to try and gain the upper hand. Yet, she isn’t perfect. She has many flaws; most of which emanate from her deep personal respect and love for her family.
This brings us to Bree’s father. I adore the relationship that Bree and her father have. Up until this point, she has trusted him completely. But, once the Adepts arrive and label her father as a traitor, Bree is suddenly extremely conflicted. She isn’t certain if she can trust her father, but she loves him and can’t imagine being without him. Bree is constantly thinking of him; pondering how she wishes things were different or how she could save him. This father/daughter dynamic is refreshing and touching for YA– particularly fantasy.
“I have been thinking,” he says. Kingdoms have been known to fall in the wake of his thoughts.
However, I struggled quite a bit with some other things. Character development was choppy. The magic system is a bit overused and with few explained rules (but, our characters don’t have anyone to teach them yet… so, maybe that’s an out? I have hope for future books). Overall, I feel like Threats of Sky and Sea just lacked depth. I know that this is all from Bree’s perspective and she is supposed to be confused and on the outs of all the plotting. But, I felt like that was a bit of a cop out. In the end, I would have liked to see more world-building, character development, and rules for magic wielding.
I also felt that there was a quite a lot in this book which was predictable, as mentioned above. I found myself rolling my eyes at Bree a few times, not because she was being silly for the character she was in that moment, but because if only she knew where this story was going she wouldn’t have done whatever-it-is. I found her frustrating at times because the direction of the story was so obvious to me. Yet the characters can’t seem to see the same things I can. That is no flaw of Bree’s character or the others, but of Ellision’s writing.
If they want they want to break me, they will have a hard time of it. I am unbreakable.
As this is her debut novel, I certainly will not give up now. YA tropes are a trap many authors get stuck in. I did become quite intrigued, I laughed often at Bree’s one-liners, and I look forward to seeing where this story goes in the future.
What do you think?
- How do you decide whether or not to keep reading a debut author’s books? What sort of things are deal breakers for you?
- What was the last book you read which was completely predictable? Did you keep reading?
- Have you read any YA books in first-person subjective? If so, what are they?