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Sea of Ghosts

(The Gravedigger Chronicles #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  727 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Leaving the behind the imaginings of Deepgate, Alan Campbell introduces a new world, a new cast of characters in a novel that reads like a cross between Stephen Deas and Joe Abercrombie. With non-stop action, beautiful characterization and Alan's usual flair for imagination and lyrical writing, welcome to a world of water - where dragons are used as weapons and countries a ...more
Paperback, 500 pages
Published April 6th 2012 by Tor UK (first published March 18th 2011)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  727 ratings  ·  72 reviews

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Neal Asher
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sea bottles are bubbling away under the sea, each seemingly a gateway into another world, steadily raising the sea levels with brine whose touch will turn your skin to shark skin. The artefacts of a recently fallen alchemic and magical dictatorship lie under the poisonous waters for anyone brave enough, or insane enough to retrieve them. Steamships and sorcerous weapons abound, along with other fascinating devices in a steam/punk/fantasy world. Dragons are addicted to what can only be descri ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dark-fantasy
Well that book sneaked up on me. I really enjoyed that. I went into this with no expectations other than the world is a grim place to live and there is magic going on. (yeah I did a lot of research and picked this one solely on the title. Which is ironic, because the title using the word 'Gravediggers' is completely irrelevant. It could have easily been called Sea of Ghosts (The Button Polishers Chronicles, #1). Yes the main character was a gravedigger, a term given to a team of soldiers who wer ...more
Ranting Dragon
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stephan

First in Alan Campbell’s new Gravedigger Chronicles, Sea of Ghosts is a mix of different genres. The novel starts as an adventurous work of low fantasy with steampunk elements, but soon moves into completely new territories of paranormal and even epic fantasy, with scientific elements that expand to make this novel resemble something I can only describe as ‘epic science fantasy’. All the while, Sea of Ghosts reads like a marine adventure written by Clive Cussler.

Dragons, zombies/>Dragons,
(review when read on original publication/review copy 2010)

I have finished the book yesterday too (full rv 2011 around publication date) and I was mixed; the writing style does not chime with me many times and the characters in the book are pure stock with no depth - eg the frightened but very powerful girl, the honor, duty, bla..., officer relegated by caricature emperor Hu to exile...

Also there are so many over the top action sequences that happen because they nee
The Abibliophobic  Guy
This was a massive let down. Massive. And looking back, I don't know why I was surprised. I have experienced Campbell's writing once before, and came out of it feeling distinctly 'meh'. However, from the moment I heard about this book to the moment I started reading it, I was captivated by the ideas that he presented. It's just a shame that he let it down. Three Stars.

Plot : Four Stars

In concept, this was a five star book, however it's execution felt just like that; an execution.

Set in a world w/>
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit. Just, wow.
This book is rich in detail. But not in a long winded and unnecessary way.
The world was so well thought out, half sinking under poisonous seas, half ravaged with war.
The magical elements whilst remaining beautiful and colourful also border on science fiction. A pairing I do so happen to love.
This book starts out with a band of wartime heroes turned mercenary survivors - aka the Gravediggers. They're a witty, violent and close nit bunch. But then they're sp
May 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Goodreads removed the review for some reason...

I stumbled across Campbell’s Sea of Ghosts back in May, and what caught my initial interest was the cover. A man in heavy diving gear trudging out of the depths with some fierce looking weapons strapped to his back – but the book dropped further and further down my list while more books were added. It returned to my attention at the wor
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whoaaa! WHAT` I`ve just finished reading?!

This one was one of the best fantasy adventure book read in the past years.

The wholse scenario it`s absolutely brilliant with a world in wich the powerfull Magi race has been subdued by the traitor Guild of Psychics and the whole Planet has gone in a distructive state. Now from the war all the sea is contaminated,there are a lot of things free out there, but the most amazing thing is that people can actually live under water (in something like an undyi
Mar 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love a dark world. and this book's setting is GRIM! Poison seas cover the earth, dooming any one even touching the brine , to a painful conversion to a sea creature and/or death. and the seas are rising! Artifacts of a defeated magical race wait under the toxic sea for anyone brave, or desperate enough to plunder search for them. a decadent empire, a militant order of telepaths, rule the remnants of a world doomed to a toxic watery death. only a disgraced soldier, an opportunistic 'trove' hunt ...more
Peter Greenwell
Fast-paced action, weird and wacky steampunk settings, and it is occasionally gripping material. What it also possesses is a litany of characters who never transcend cardboard, periods where the writing is pedestrian (some poor editing at play too) and as with Campbell's prior three books, his imagination gets the better of him and logical flow goes out the window.

The good outweighs the bad - just, and it is a guilty pleasure of a read.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I only have one word: MASTERPIECE

I don't have much experience with the genre Steampunk, heck I daresay that this was only my second book, after Clockwork Angel. So I was sceptical to read this book. Though Clockwork Angel was great, the author didn't give much insight into the world itself. I am sure the series was good but sadly I didn't continue with it since it was not my cup of tea.

This book reintroduced me to this amazing genre and I was blissfully swept off my feet. I had serious concern
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely atmospheric description of a dystopian world. The setting is very well realised, the environment nicely described and the pace enjoyable and filled with well spaced and constructed plot turns. I like the characters, the depth of their strengths and flaws is refreshing and unusual. I could barely put it down and couldn't wait to read the sequel. Lost one star for slightly overwhelming bleakness.
This is book one of a series. The author has created a whole new type of world, and to understand the story you have to grasp the realities of this world. I just found the story was moving faster than I could grasp all the differences that I had to learn. It was like learning a new language. Having said that, it’s a good story, just not one I personally want to put any more time and effort into to read the rest of the series.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a slow build to a frantic pace. an intricate world with surprising features. complex characters, many of them downright despicable. i get the sense that this book is winding up the spring for one immense narrative, but manages to do this through the (mostly) smaller concerns of the characters depicted. action, magic, philosophy, and bizarre technology are woven in with guilt, avarice, heavy responsibility, and self-discovery. i just finished it, and i still haven't found a good stopping place. ...more
The created world is beyond fascinating and I loved it, but characters dropping in and out of character brings it down quite a lot. Also, the final book isn't written and probably never will be.

Full review on my blog:
James Singh
Mar 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF, good premise, but the writing is unbearable, absolutely bland. Such a shame
Sachin Dev
Originally reviewed here: ( with a bit more pontificating, if you please :D)

The first in the Gravedigger Chronicles, Sea of Ghosts brings to us another gloriously created world – where the sea-levels are rising and waters have turned toxic – “brine” a substance left over by the last inhabitants of this world before humans. A race called Unmer who were defeated by the human slaves with their psychic telepathic Haurstaf witches – who now keep the Unmer under control. But the brine is
Campbell Mcaulay
The sea is toxic and gradually rising and the world reduced to a few isolated island archipelagoes. Society is brutal, exploitative and feudal. Thomas Granger is a hunted man and his daughter is a valuable political and scientific commodity. Read on...

I picked this up on no more than a whim after spotting it's rather striking cover art on the "recommended" section at the bookshop and, a few short days later, I put it down again, pretty much blown away. OK, so I'm no steampunk afficio
Perry Watson
This book blew me away, mostly thanks to its excellent worldbuilding. In this world, humanity was formerly enslaved by the Unmer, a race of evil sorcerer types. When the Unmer were overthrown by the Haurstaf, an order of human telepaths, the Unmer threw millions of magic bottles into the ocean, enchanted to constantly spray out poisonous brine that turns human skin into "sharkskin," and ultimately renders those fully immersed in it into the Drowned, a sort of aquatic mindless zombie.

Natasha M.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lianne Burwell
I always find it interesting comparing North American SF to the UK SF. Some people would say 'it's just SF', but there is a definite difference in tone. For one thing, I tend to find UK SF a little darker in tone, the worlds a little stranger.

In Sea of Ghosts, you get both. The Unmer are sorcerors who controlled the world for a very long time. Then their human slaves rose up in rebellion, mainly aided by a guild of female telepaths who now control the surviving Unmer. But in a final
Nick Brett
This is an intriguing fantasy novel which keeps the reader guessing as to where it is going. A bit of steampunk, weird magic and fresh ideas assault the reader from almost the first page. Set in an intelligently crafted world where the sea is rising and heavily toxic, there are a number of key protagonists: a resourceful officer on the run from the Empire, a cunning treasure hunter, a witch and a young girl with some very strange abilities.

What is interesting about this is that you c
Aug 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, fantasy
'Sea of Ghosts' fits into multiple genres - fantasy, steampunk, and even includes some elements of science fiction. The author has managed to create a unique fantasy world, something different from 'standard fantasy'; it's sometimes bizarre, and there's a constant sense of danger and fascination. The whole story has a dark and suspenseful atmosphere. About half-way through the book, I just couldn't stop reading. The urge to find out what happened next was overwhelming. I very much look forward t ...more
Brian Steele
This book started out amazing. The first chapter alone was one of the most captivating, original, and bizarre things I've read in some time. Unfortunately, it descended into a somewhat boring tale far too quickly.

Campbell has created a unique world, a fantasy universe based more off 17th century Europe than the middle ages like we see in traditional fantasy. There is a odd, almost steampunkish element, along with the aspect of a flooded earth. Sadly, there are almost too many alien c
Feb 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I finished Alan Campbell's Deepgate Codex back in 2010 and thought that it was wondrously strange and fun. Now he's got a new series going called the Gravedigger Chronicles. This first book takes place in a whole new, fascinating world. One of the things that's great about this author is that he doesn't fall back on a faux-medieval world like so many countless other fantasists. He creates a new world from scratch. The main character in this story is Thomas Granger, a colonel in an elite infiltration ...more
Cassiopeia's Moon
Feb 02, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was a cover buy.

I love the cover. Then I began reading, and what a disappointment. I couldn't care for Granger, I couldn't picture the world inside my head, nothing was explained.

Some bits here and there were interesting, but mostly the story couldn't grip me and every time I picked the book up I'd forgotten what had happened and had to reread the previous pages. During my reading I often zoomed out and couldn't keep up with all the twist and turns.

Almost nothing got an
3 and a half stars. well. something went wrong here. i mean take a bit of Mieville, along with a bit of Asher straight out of Spatterjay world, add an idea or three, and it should add up to something, shouldn't it? maybe the pot got overstirred and the contents muddied, or something - it has the dead weight of about three radical rewrites too many. the characters don't come alive, the ideas seem overexplained, there's no throughline and no momentum. and the emphasis on nasty, brutish, and short ...more
Emer Byrne
Aug 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took me some time to get into this story, purely because it's unlike like any other fantasy novel I've ever read. Campbell seems to have created an entirely new world, with no borrowing from any other stories. I'm in awe of his imagination!

I love the realness of the characters: it's not your usual good versus evil set up. Even the poor imprisoned race don't really get all of our sympathy, given that they had enslaved much of human kind... Another thing I liked was that Campbell br
Feb 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was a huge fan of the Scar Night series, and this book in comparison is a bit of a letdown.
That being said, I still enjoyed the read immensely. Even for Campbell, he took the "everyone is an asshole" theme that he's known for and truly utilize to his advantage. The worldbuilding is amazing, and it's hard not to visualize everything. Many characters have their amusing quirks and as I said, "everyone is an asshole".
It's not his best book by any means, but I love regardless.
My b
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vivid, imaginative, original, unpredictable, bleak, funny - characters that grow on you slowly, but surely, and a finely drawn world that teeters on the edge of making sense but never quite gives it up to the reader... not a bad thing at all, to my mind; a bit of mystery makes it more interesting. A lovely light touch in the writing that means all the underlying stuff, quite disturbing in parts, doesn't jump on you, but simmers away in the back of your mind until you really get a chance to reali ...more
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I was born in Falkirk, Scotland, and grew up there, before moving on to to study Computer Science at Edinburgh University. After graduating, I worked for DMA Design, Visual Sciences and Rockstar, developing video games: Body Harvest for the Nintendo 64, Formula One 2000 for the Playstation, and the Grand Theft Auto series on the PC and PS2. After we'd finished Vice City, I left to pursue a career ...more

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