“We live in a world of no good options.”
After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, who have lost their families and homes because of Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric’s armed and armored fleet.
But when Caledonia’s best friend and second-in-command barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all . . . or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?
TW: gun violence, addiction and withdrawal, violence, death (including parental and sibling death)
Going into Seafire, I was pretty sure it was going to be a fantasy adventure with lots of swashbuckling and possibly some fire magic. I mean, look at that beautiful cover, then read the summary, and tell me that isn’t what you’re expecting!
But it sounds like this is a common problem people are running into: the cover and summary don’t quite give the right impression of what’s actually inside. In some ways, this is really nifty and surprising. In other ways, it’s led to some disappointment about how the book played out.
On the bright side, I really liked that this book actually has an almost sci-fi, post-apocalyptic edge to it. The crew of the Mors Navis, as well as most other ships sailing the Bullet Seas, make use of technology no one knows how to make anymore. It’s implied that there used to be a wealth of incredible tech in the world, and that that world is long gone, replaced by something more cutthroat, something that’s clawed its way out of the ashes to make a new survive. On one hand, there’s solar power, electricity, and impressive medical tech. On the other hand, there aren’t a wealth of computers, bustling cities as we think of them now, or anything that usually marks futuristic books. As a result, Seafire is in this really nebulous spot in both space and time that sets it apart, and I really liked that!
I also love the idea that this is a crew full of women who are hellbent on destroying the empire of the man who has destroyed the lives of people who don’t have the power to resist him. They’re after blood and justice, and especially in Caledonia and Pisces’ cases, they’re after vengeance for their family.
What can I say? Throw in some family vengeance on top of found family, and I’m just a sucker for it.
But. BUT. I did have some issues with Seafire that disappointed me a little. For one, you’re telling me that a crew with over 50 girls, most around the same age, doesn’t have any explicitly queer characters? There are two girls who are probably in a relationship, but it’s largely implied and I’m a little disappointed in that.
Especially when you end up with the main character smushing faces with a boy who spends half the book without a name and the other half named but without a strong personality? Yeah, I’m queer and disappointed, but what’s new?
Seriously, though. The romance was disappointing as all hell and had no chemistry. I far preferred the possibility of Caledonia and Redtooth, but that got pretty thoroughly removed from the list of possibilities.
But beyond the bland romance and the lack of outright queerness I was expecting, I was also let down by the plot. Most of the book is a high seas road trip just to get out of harm’s way. Caledonia’s actions near the end take on a more proactive cast, but for a long stretch of time, it feels like she’s stuck in reactive mode, with occasional spots of brilliance that make me wonder why she’s still running and hasn’t thought of a better plan already. This doesn’t help the ending of the book, which sets up an excellent cliffhanger, but also lacks the emotional payoff to make me excited to see that cliffhanger through when Steel Tide comes out.
Basically, a lot of nifty threads were introduced, but they weren’t knotted particularly neatly, and the structure of the book felt weaker for it.
It’s likely that I’ll read Steel Tide nonetheless. I didn’t hate Seafire, not by a long shot. I was just misled by the cover and summary, and wanted to see a tighter structure and more vibrant, lively character development and chemistry. It has plenty of potential, but was shaky on the execution.
In good news, though, the series is getting fresh covers (which could be bad news if you adore the old cover like I do), so maybe that will eliminate some of the cover expectations confusion that seems to be plaguing reviewers. To see the new covers, done by Cliff Nielsen, check out Natalie’s tweet about them!
So, have you read Seafire yet? If you did, what did you think? If not, think you’ll give it a go? If you like pirates and girl gangs and high seas escapades, it’s probably worth giving it a shot! Either way, let’s talk.