On the endless ocean of prairie grasses known as The Forever Sea, ships sail across it, flowers with magical properties grow within and wild creatures remain hidden under the tall grasses. Kindred Greyreach, a hearthfire keeper, had just come back from a journey on The Errant when she received devastating news that her grandmother had jumped from her ship and into The Forever Sea for reasons unknown. Heartbroken, but determined to find out what truly happened, Kindred, along with her grandmother’s last letter and memories of their journey before, set off on a trail against dangerous territorials to seek out the truth that lies within the depth of The Forever Sea.
This story at first gave me some Treasure Island feels to it with ships sailing above this incredible sea using magic fires controlled by hearthfire keepers (not the same as Long John Silver’s ship sailing through planets in the universe, but you get the gist!)
The worldbuilding in this book is spectacular! Listed as an ‘environmental epic fantasy’, it deals with the relationship between the environment and humanity. Johnson’s descriptions of The Forever Sea are beautiful and melodic. The setting was fantastic, combined with interesting delicately crafted magic powers, this new world is in some ways, quite familiar to us even though it’s an entirely different system! I think Johnson balanced that line nicely! The language used throughout was beautiful and the descriptions of The Forever Sea are lifelike enough that we are able to just pictures the scenes in our mind’s eye.
At the beginning, we are informed that the story is not told by Kindred. In fact, it’s a mysterious storyteller that brings her story back to life from perhaps years after Kindred’s time. We’re then introduced to Kindred, a hearthfire keeper of The Errant. Hearthfire is what keeps the ships afloat the sea of grass and what keeps it sailing across it, and this is where the keepers come in. Each ship has two hearthfire keepers and they build the bones of dead captains into the hearthfire (or putting them on the fire) and they have the power to control the hearthfire through songs, which in turn manoeuvres the ship to move faster or slower. Kindred quickly learnt that she was no ordinary hearthfire keeper and has a special connection with the flames which the others don’t, and they do not understand this new power either. Kindred was then able to use this connection to control the hearthfire better.
After a long and exhausting journey, Kindred and her crew returned to their home Arcadia, a land that relies heavily on water to live and the people therefore creates all kinds of methods to preserve the water in the city. However, it is this shortage of water which can easily leads to conflicts and politics. It is here that Kindred also learnt of her grandmother’s passing and mourns with her crew members. Kindred’s whole life changes from this point.
Up until now, the storyline was quite strong and the worldbuilding remains incredible, but here is when Kindred started to become obsessed with finding her grandmother’s whereabouts with only a note containing riddles left for her from her grandmother. I was a bit surprised at the part where Kindred (unlike her usual characteristic) manipulated her crew members to enter the Once-City, a city of pirates (as far as I can recall) where everything and everyone around is dangerous. Lost with friends who no longer trust her anymore, Kindred needs to find her own way safely through this new territory whilst discovering love at the same time.
Although romance doesn’t have a strong appearance in the novel, it’s still very exciting to find out that Kindred was actually queer, but the relationship was a bit out of the blue. I did first suspect there was something going on between her and Captain Jane Caraway but boy was I wrong! I would definitely love to see more of her relationship with the Captain though if they ever get the chance to meet in future books. Sometimes when reading, it feels like Kindred is a bit lost in her own thoughts and we have no way of knowing what she was thinking of and that was quite stressful, but I suppose since we are hearing the story from the storyteller, it is highly unlikely that we know all of her thoughts explicitly. Although we might not be very close to the characters, we can still enjoy the lyrical writing of the story. Nature is heavily explored in the novel and it sheds a new light on our environment and what we need to do in order to live in harmony with our planet.
Kindred’s story is far from over. With her newfound love and The Lost, it has only just begun
Will you be picking up The Forever Sea? Tell us in the comments below!
Synopsis | Goodreads
On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother—The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.
But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.
To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves. Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything—ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun—to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.
THE FOREVER SEA is a story about the beauty and threat of nature and the relationship between finite natural resources and infinite greed. It’s about leaving behind everything that is familiar and plunging into the terrifying unknown.