Reviews

Review: THE LAST SEA GOD (The Bone War #1), by Ashley Capes

I received this ARC from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

In truth, I did not know whether the story spanning the books in the Bone Mask trilogy would move toward a sequel: at the end of the final volume, many threads had been carried to conclusion – some of them with a tragic epilogue – and the world seemed destined to find its way toward a sort of new balance after the widespread turmoil that had shaken it.  Still, other narrative paths had been left hanging, and from there this new Bone War trilogy takes its start: even though it’s a brand new narrative trail, I would not recommend starting from here, because its roots dig quite deep into what went before, and you will need that knowledge to move easily in this new territory.

Unlike the previous installments of the story, The Last Sea God follows a good number of points of view, some well-known, some new. Notch, the former soldier-turned-adventurer who played one of the central roles in the Bone Mask trilogy, does not find himself in a very good place: at the beginning, we meet him as he’s plagued by guilt for Sofia’s ultimate sacrifice, and tries to drown his sorrow in alcohol – quite a departure from the determined character we learned to know in the past.  The only way he can get out of his despondency is by launching himself into what looks like an impossible task: traveling to the Ecsoli’s land and find a way to reverse the Sacrifice required by powerful masks, so that he can assuage his remorse over having failed his duty to Sofia.  What he and his companion Alosus (a character I’ve come to care for quite a bit) will find there will be much more than he bargained for, both in the matter of acquired knowledge and in the way of what we might call foreign politics…

Flir, Notch’s long-time comrade, takes a journey back to her home of Renovar, to convey King Seto’s peace overtures after the failed invasion from a group of her own compatriots, and also to acquire some more powerful bones to replenish Anaskar’s stores, that have been almost completely depleted by the war with the Ecsoli – with the exception of old Argeon.  This path down memory lane is quite difficult for Flir, especially where her peculiar abilities are concerned, but this relatively minor discomfort is overshadowed by the discoveries she makes about her old home.  Her ambassadorial duties must soon be placed on a back burner when she finds out that there is something quite sinister going on, something that more than hints at sorcery, or worse.

Pathfinder Ain, of the desert-dwelling Medah, makes a welcome return here: after the first book, where he enjoyed one of the three main points of view, he was later afforded far less space than I would have liked, so finding him again here, and seeing him face a deadly threat to his people, more than made up for the past.   Having brokered an alliance between the Medah and Anaskari, he’s leading the extraction of more precious bones from the desert, when his village is attacked by a veritable horde of weird people, bent on stealing the bones he and his compatriots have excavated: it will fall to him, true to his Pathfinder duties, to forge a new road toward salvation and the solution of a new, terrifying mystery.

King Seto, for his part, looks like the living proof for the famous Shakespearian quote about the uneasiness of the head wearing a crown: Anaskar is still suffering from the Ecsoli invasion’s aftermath, and something nasty is brewing in the background, something that seems well beyond Seto’s ability to fully comprehend or stop.

The newcomers on the scene are Nia, of the grove dwellers, who we encountered before but too briefly to get to know her well, and Fiore, a Storm Singer in training, who despite her your age might prove pivotal toward solving the riddles that the new conspiracy based in Anaskar is laying on King Seto’s path.  Both of them provide further insights into what is happening, either in the grove or in Anaskar, where dark forces are clearly bent on subverting the attempts to return to a normal life.

There is indeed much to take in while reading The Last Sea God, and I needed all of my powers of recollection and concentration to juggle the myriad details that compose this story like a very convoluted puzzle.  The increased number of points of view did not help, either, and I must admit it felt as if the narrative focus became somewhat diluted if compared with the more contained solutions previously adopted.  The characters are literally scattered all over the world, where strange, often weird events involve them and create separate and apparently unconnected story-lines, and this time more than ever I had to “battle” with the difficulties presented by author’s narrative style, that is more discursive than descriptive, and therefore required me to pay increased attention to avoid being distracted and missing vital clues.

Of course this does not mean I did not enjoy the story, because I certainly did, but at the end of the volume I felt as if I had been presented with only a glimpse of things to come – a great number of things, to be precise – but no hint about how they all individually fit into the grand scheme of events, or where they were headed, and I confess that this left me a little frustrated, despite the certainty that in the end all will become clear. Sadly, patience is not one my virtues…  🙂

So, to end on a more upbeat note and remove that hint of frustration I mentioned, I want to spend a few words about the book’s cover, which is a departure from the previously adopted style, and shows a simple background – like fractured marble – on which the title draws all of the attention. From my point of view it’s quite eye-catching and it somehow sums up the core of the story, that of a world on the verge of breaking down because of a series of treacherous events. As they say, an image can be as powerful as words, if not more.

 

My Rating: 

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14 thoughts on “Review: THE LAST SEA GOD (The Bone War #1), by Ashley Capes

  1. I was totally NOT paying attention and just glanced at the cover. I thought it said “The Last Sea Food”. Needless to say, I was a bit confused for a moment until I actually looked at the title of your post 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounds like the classic set-up for a sequel trilogy. A little disappointing that you can’t really start here without having read the first series though, I think every spin-off or new sequel series should ideally allow new readers to jump on board easily. Hope you’re right that all the scattered pieces you see here is just a glimpse of what’s to come and the next book will see things all fall into place!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The author assured me that All Will Be Revealed in Time 🙂
      Still, I’m somewhat chomping at the bit!
      And more than a spin-off, this one looks like a continuation of the previous series, despite the overall title name change…

      Like

  3. Thank you for a really thorough, excellent review – though I can’t say I was exactly champing at the bit after reading it. I’m not a fan of multiple povs so that I’m constantly struggling to work out exactly who is doing what to whom everytime there is a new scene.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was already familiar with most of these POVs from the previous trilogy, so it was no trouble remembering who they were, it was just that so MUCH was happening at the same time that I felt somewhat… dizzy 😀
      But I have been assured all will become clear in the end, so I’m keeping the faith!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well it’s a testament either to the author’s skill in keeping you engrossed in the story OR a testament to your loyalty as a reader! I hope you find the third book suitably satisfying:)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Bit of a shame that you need to have read all the other works before picking this up – not that I’m saying I wouldn’t read the others but it makes it a bit more onerous and usually you can dive straight into spin offs.
    Must admit I really like that cover though. It would definitely have gained my attention.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The problem is that there are so many books we would like to read, and learning of a new series when it’s well into its journey poses the problem of getting up to speed, and – despite our love of books and reading – we cannot read everything. Sadly…

      🙂

      Like

  5. I have never this one, and after your review and these comments, I wonder if I should. I mean, it sounds great, but this fact that you need to have read a lot before puts me a bit off. This is one reason why I loved the Vorkosigan Saga, for example: no matter where you start, you can enjoy the book (of course, if you have read what comes first makes it more enjoyable). I’ve put this one on my TBR list, though, you’ll never know 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is indeed the trouble with series (and nowadays most stories come out in series, with standalone books becoming rarer than pandas…), and your comparison with the Vor saga is indeed on point: I can’t recall other authors so skilled as Bujold in bringing readers up to speed without slowing the pace…

      Liked by 1 person

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