Tuesday, February 3, 2009

“Seaborn” by Chris Howard

Title: “Seaborn”
Author: Chris Howard
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 384
Publisher: Juno Books

Summary: Kassandra is the Seaborn king’s granddaughter - the one he wished he’d killed when he’d had the chance. Kassandra’s spent her entire life in exile on the surface, struggling to control frightening powers she barely understands—powers she has already used to defeat the king’s warriors when she was still a teenager. Now she’s ready to declare war. Corina Lairsey is a California college student who has just freed herself from one controlling relationship when she finds herself in another. Only this time, Aleximor, an ancient Seaborn sorcerer, is literally inside her head, and wearing her body. Corina must strive for control of her self, fighting against time as Aleximor trades pieces of her life away in exchange for power over the path between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Classification & Literary Class:
It has been a lot easier to write reviews to books that I didn’t enjoy than to something that I seem generally in love with. Plain and simple, novels you don’t resonate with, lack that magical quality. Without it, you can pop the hood and analyze every little process effortlessly. But the story changes when you are confronted with a novel that has this quality, that is organic and whose magic you can never pinpoint or analyze. You get where I am going with this.

“Seaborn” is exactly that. Organic. Every element, idea, character and plot thread flow into each other until your senses are overwhelmed in the best possible way meant. Starting from the most obvious “Seaborn” is urban fantasy, but the way I think it should be. The core of the novel is the story itself that unfolds flawlessly in two entwining worlds and that is propelled by the characters’ strategies, unlike the current wave of titles with greater focus on a near to impossible relationship. “Seaborn” speaks about war and battles, where in the end it’s either everything or nothing. To top it off every line is delivered with above satisfactory prose. For me Howard’s writing evokes a resemblance to Nabokov’s style with unconventional imagery and originality.

Characters & Depth:
Since I mentioned that “Seaborn” is virtually flawless, the characters must be top notch as well. The strong heroine in urban fantasy usually has some issues like anger management, inferiority complex or daddy issues, which make them brass, fast to strike and totally primal to a point. They don’t think before they act. Kassandra is has people inside her head, real voices. She can never be sure, when one of them will pop up and take her body for a spin and she doesn’t get along with her family much, but she is the embodiment of a Machiavellian character. Poseidon’s Wreath pretty much makes her all powerful underwater and a strategic genius. An emergency arises and she is already scheming how to evade it. But here is the best part about her. She has to remain sane. Kassandra is trying to be as human as possible, fighting for control with the previous bearers in her head and not blowing things up.

Virtually every character is as fleshed out and controversial as Kassandra is. I loved the Corina-Aleximor possession, since both characters are complete opposites starting from the most obvious, their species and moving towards the personality differences. During the whole novel though I saw immense character growth. Aleximor showed a strange form of kindness or at least something similar, while Corina was adapting to the new situation and found enough strength to reclaim power over her own body. I can keep going on, but it is pointless. Chris Howard has gone as far as giving the past bearers their own distinctive pasts and personalities that later on help Kassandra piecing the whole puzzle together.

Worldbuilding & Believability:
Probably what hooked me most before I discovered the merits of the story itself was the world building. This world has everything from incredible magic over water and other forces, to the rich history and the lore and culture. The world of the seaborn is based on Greek mythology and most of the names sound Ancient Greek as well as certain terms. Being cursed by Zeus these people have left their island and created their own society below the waves, divided into 9 houses with their own artificial sun. They have their own undead army and magic taboos. It all makes perfect logic and I never doubted a thing. Most intriguing I found the hereditary passing of magic talents, which ‘bleed’ from an elder to a blood relative of a new generation. And these talents use water mainly, but we do have necromancy, clairvoyance and fire magic underwater, which is also pretty well justified. I am not sure what is researched and what is fictitious, but whatever aspect Chris Howard touched, he raised the bar quite high.

The Verdict:
I am not sure how Juno got their hands on this novel, but they landed quite the gold mine at least for urban fantasy readers. I may sound extreme, but here goes: This is a must-read, must-have and worshipped. This mythology junkie is more than satisfied and begs people to buy more than one copy as soon as possible. If I am correct, after several generations a first issue of this will be quite valuable.


Carole McDonnell said...

Yes!!! It's a great novel!

CJ said...

Harry -

What a great review. I'll definitely keep my eyes open for this one.



Harry Markov said...

You should. It is a great novel.

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