“Don’t ever underestimate Typhon. He’s ruthless, pitiless, crueler than you can ever know. Crueler than you can ever possibly imagine. But most of all he’s smart. And driven. Someone to be feared, respected, avoided at all costs. If you see him, you run. Understand me? You run, Jamie, no matter what. No matter where you are, no matter what’s happening to the rest of us. You run, Jamie.”
In the Between, a magical realm between mortal life and the afterlife, the Seekers and Watchers of the Shining Lands are sworn to protect the few Talents left in the mortal world, but the number of Talents is dwindling rapidly. Could the disappearances be related to a missing Seeker or the mysterious creature suddenly inhabiting an abandoned settlement? While the leading Seekers bicker over strategies, Typhon, who rules the Dark Waste with a hand of fire and a cadre of Hunstmen, is gaining power and getting closer to finding Jamie Aster, the newest Talent to arrive.
Nobody knows what Jamie’s Talent actually is. But Typhon will stop at nothing and Jamie may be the Talent’s redemption, or their doom. While the settlers of Broadmoor protect Jamie, they must also uncover his Talent and train him to defend himself before it’s too late. Morgan was able to save Jamie from Typhon’s burning grasp once before, but he may not be able to do it again.
J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she's (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn't quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe...
When reading I find there are authors that are good at writing the ‘big’ story (i.e. save the world), and some—fewer—who can write the ‘small’ story, the character story. It’s rare when they can write both.
Rockwell’s characters are well drawn and interesting. I care about bit characters like Tussle and Harkon, and each are distinct. Sometimes I wish a certain leviathan might get its tentacles on Jamie, but the tenderness between Morgan and Hallea feels very real and all the more poignant when ... okay, I won’t write that spoiler. But wrapped in all of the character development is a very unique premise of an afterlife and magic, and Crossings, and old Talents that I really feel we’re just starting to get into, which is pretty amazing considering I’ve just read two books worth of it.
If I have one critique it’s that there is one hell of a big cliffhanger at the end of this and I encourage the publication of the next installment forthwith.
Oh—and more Kitsune, please. Particularly the throat ripping out Kitsune.
Seiokana by J.B. Rockwell is a delightful romp through a series of imaginary worlds—real to the people who inhabit them, but made of pure energy and shaped by the minds of their inhabitants. The various settings in this book are so well described that they almost become characters in their own right, and the tone of each place sets the stage for the types of interactions that occur there. Places that become lonely and feel empty once they are no longer inhabited is such an intriguing concept—it really speaks to the talents of this author that she could take such a fantastical idea and make it real.
The Shining Lands exist between the mortal realm and Dark Waste, which is ruled by the dark lord Typhon. A war has raged between the Shining Lands and the Dark Waste for thousands of years, a war that could shake the very foundations of reality. Even the mortal world is not safe, as more and more Talents (people with special abilities) from the mortal world are killed and claimed by the otherworldly combatants.
This book falls squarely in the center of the hero’s journey. Jamie, our hero, has begun his quest but has not fully discovered his purpose. With the help of his newfound friends, Jamie moves closer to discovering his elusive Talent, but danger lurks at every turn. The inhabitants of the other settlements are splintering as they seek to combat to the dark lord. Typhon himself has not been beaten, and has picked up new allies in his quest to capture Jamie and gain dominion over the Shining Lands. He sets in motion a plan that could devastate the Shining Lands if it is not stopped in time.
Will Jamie discover the nature of his Talent in time to help save the Shining Lands, or is he destined to become another one of Typhon’s pawns? Will he prove to be the Shining Lands’ salvation or the instrument of their destruction?
I really enjoyed this book. My only criticism is that it ended too soon—I wanted to know more about the final confrontation the end, but I suppose that’s what the third book is for. The world is really too complex to be explained in only one book, so a series makes sense.
The characters are quite well-developed. Even the minor characters felt like fully flushed-out people, which I appreciated. You also get a glimpse of the motives of the antagonists, which is helpful in developing the story. You can feel Jamie’s bumbling and uncertainty while he tries to discover the nature of his Talent, as well as Morgan’s protectiveness for his people and the surliness that comes from having lost so many of them.
They are a people at war, and yet they still remember to have fun. Because of this, the book doesn’t feel overly dark, even though the stakes are high and the characters experience very real suffering.
I eagerly await the next installment of this series.
Where to start with Seiokana, well I’m not a big reader. Between reading Breakshield in 2014 and Seiokana I probably only picked up and completed about two books (including Wharf Rat by the wonderful K.C. Shaw). A book really needs to grip me, I need to be invested within that first chapter or I lose interest. I slid though Seiokana in two sittings, I could only bear to put it down when I fell asleep reading it after a 6 hour stint and being awake for nearly 24 hours. Time seemed to stand still. Enough about me. As a second book in a series its filling its gap between beginning and end perfectly. Without seeming forced giving you reminders of the little bits you may have forgotten from the first book while progressing the story in a new direction leaving you longing for the next instalment.
From the start Jamie making the perfect Watson pulls you into his viewpoint, questioning the world and building it up at the same time. The Between is such a vivid and varied setting that we tasted in Breakshield with a long history that we get fully emerged in as readers, in this book we were invited to the buffet and I was satisfactorily stuffed. This is a world built up and detailed, every description giving you a perfect picture in your mind and even filling in that human gap a picture doesn’t always bring, the feeling. The feeling of a place, the warmth of a sun or snap of the cold. The Between is expanding as you read, as you go you see new places and meet fantastic new people.
I could go on for days, I really could about how easy it is to get invested in every character. I love them all; in little ways they all come alive. Morgan becomes so much more complex in this book, why is he the way he is? What’s happened in his past? How did he come to be in Broadmoor with Hallea? Well you’ll find out, just get reading. I’m so happy to see more of Hakkon and Tussle and how they interact with the others and each other. I have so many things I want to spill but I’ll be good. All I’ll say is enjoy Princess in the Castle and the greasy rope.
I’m trying desperately not to mention Kitsune because even sites with no limit to character count for reviews would stop me.
If you enjoyed Breakshield, you’ll love this. If you enjoyed Breakshield you’ll be coming after J.B. Rockwell as soon as you finish this instalment begging for Reaper (book 3).
Seiokana picks up where J.B. Rockwell’s previous novel, Breakshield, left off. Faced with no other choice, Morgan Quendalen has brought the Jamie Aster and his unknown Talent into the Between, and Jamie is becoming accustomed to life with Quendalen’s group in the village of Boradmoor. Still, Jamie remains both a hope and a threat in equal measure as long as his Talent remains concealed and Typhon continues to pursue him—and this remains the primary source of suspense throughout the novel.
Rockwell engages in some serious world-building as we travel between many different settlements in the Between—from a land of perpetual winter, to a treehouse village of eternal fall, to a stone castle/ fort, to a lake that houses a deeply sinister relative of the Loch Ness Monster. The details are vivid without being overwhelming, and the device of magical gateways between the settlements keeps the reader from getting too bogged down in the details of geography.
As with most series, though, the bigger draw is the characters, and Quendalen’s merry band of allies at his home village of Broadmoor delivers an appealing stock of personalities. The gentle but powerful Watcher Hallea watches over the troop like a mother bird over her nest, and she wins us over right away with her protectiveness toward Jamie in particular, as he seems charmingly befuddled by the situation he has fallen into. The banter between the tricky thief Tussle and the Viking warrior Hakkon provides comic relief and familial warmth, with the cerebral Kurou bringing balance to the group. It’s easy to identify with these characters, to like them, to fear for them.
The strength of this novel lies in its accessibility. I actually came to this book before having read the first volume of the series, but I never felt that I was missing any key information; I found I could ease right into the story. The plotting is crisp and Rockwell provides just enough background to get a new reader into the loop or refresh the memory of a devotee, but the backstory is presented with maximum efficiency to allow this installment to expand and stand on its own. This installment is light on battle sequences, but there’s plenty of intrigue and the sense throughout that pieces are moving into place for a big finish.
A very good, very solid read and I thought it was even better than the first book in the series (Breakshield).
I'll hand it to the author, because Seiokana is pretty different from Breakshield. In Breakshield, it's largely the action that pulls you along. In this one, it's all about the mystery about what's going on and what's going wrong in the world.
Characters are believable and definitely spike high on the like-o-meter.
The story itself is really well paced (I never once felt like it was dragging), and I felt compelled to keep reading, enough so I finished it off pretty quickly. World building was pretty good too.
And now I'm impatiently waiting for the third book in the series.
I greatly enjoyed BREAKSHIELD, and it was really interesting to see how that story evolved in SEIOKANA. Tighter, more solid world building, adorable character development, and a real sense of substance to the environments really made me enjoy this story a lot more than the first book.
It's a much more character focused story, setting the scene for action to come, and I *loved* the change in pace. There were moments when I would have enjoyed more action and combat (I wanted a seamonster battle, dagnabbit!), but it looks like there's plenty of that ahead in the next book.