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The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea. 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 w The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea. 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.


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The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea. 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 w The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea. 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.

30 review for The Forever Sea

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petrik

    I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the publisher—DAW Books—in exchange for an honest review. Wonderful world-building and beautifully written, but unfortunately it’s a bit lacking in characterizations and pacing. I’ve mentioned it so often but Marc Simonetti is seriously one of my favorite cover artists, and the US edition of The Forever Sea is illustrated by him. I won’t lie, the extraordinarily wonderful cover art was the main reason w I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the publisher—DAW Books—in exchange for an honest review. Wonderful world-building and beautifully written, but unfortunately it’s a bit lacking in characterizations and pacing. I’ve mentioned it so often but Marc Simonetti is seriously one of my favorite cover artists, and the US edition of The Forever Sea is illustrated by him. I won’t lie, the extraordinarily wonderful cover art was the main reason why I wanted to read this book. I mean, just look at it! It totally captured the beauty of the world portrayed in the book. I’m not sure why, but somehow Simonetti’s artwork rarely graced the cover art of US/UK published novels, and I think that situation desperately needs to change. Now, regarding the quality of the story itself, I have to sadly admit that I have mixed feelings about it. “That’s how she ended all of her letters to me. She told me once that love didn’t have to do anything other than exist. You don’t have to dress it up or compare it to something else; when it is, it’s miracle enough.” The story revolves around Kindred Greyreach. a hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard The Errant who suddenly receives the devastating news that her grandmother—The Marchess, a legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has disappeared into The Forever Sea, which is a never-ending expanse of prairie grasses. However, in the note that The Marchess left for her, she states that it’s not a suicide; there's something beyond the Forever Sea that she needs to find. And so Kindred sets out to follow her grandmother’s footsteps, whatever it takes. To be honest, for the first half of the novel, I did think that this was going to be continuously wonderful. The world-building was incredibly impressive; distinctive, intricate, and it remains that way throughout the whole book. Plus, Johnson has a beautiful prose that made the Ghibli-esque setting of the world so imaginable and vivid. I definitely agree without a doubt that the quality of the world-building and prose lived up to the stunning cover art that Simonneti illustrated. “To fall into the grasses of Forever Sea was to fall through them. The grasses were like hair, capable of holding nothing up on their own. Whatever magic gave growth and body to the Forever Sea, whatever magic the beasts of the Sea had also been granted in order to ascend and descend—none of it extended to humanity, who dropped through Sea, dead weight falling without slowing.” Admittedly, the world-building and prose were the only things that clicked with me. I found the narrative to be too repetitive, and the details contained in world-building did hurt the pacing of the book. I do wish that Kindred wasn’t the only memorable character within the entire book, the non-stop rashness of her actions made her really hard to like; she’s the type of character that constantly does things without thinking. I’m not saying that she’s thoroughly unlikeable, but I do feel that her character and motivations need more exploration for me to care about her more. “On the table, books full of graphs and numbers and charts lay open, and scattered around and atop these were notes and letters of all types. She longed to rake her eyes over and through this written chaos, to wriggle through the tiny nettles of the pages and lose herself in them. Words, when written, were a labyrinth she could wander forever.” Overall, The Forever Sea has an admirable world-building, beautiful prose, and stunning cover art, but I found the characters and characterizations department to be slightly lacking. I do think that The Forever Sea will work incredibly well for those who prioritized magnificent world-building in their fantasy read. I’m not sure how many books are planned for this series, but I do hope that the next book will have an improvement in characterizations and pacing. You can pre-order the book from: Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping) | Bookshop (Support Local Bookstores!) The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing! My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Estefani, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Shaad, Summer, Zoe.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andreas

    Miles deep prairie grass with magically floating ships above it. That’s what the cover shows, and that’s the core of this rich world filled with pirates, a lost city, wilderness, the deeps, sea monsters, and many mysteries. On board of one ship is young woman Kindred, hired as a hearth keeper, who operates the magical fire keeping the ship afloat and propelling it forward. The story follows Kindred and the crew as a bildungsroman between adventures hunt by and hunting pirates, discovering the wil Miles deep prairie grass with magically floating ships above it. That’s what the cover shows, and that’s the core of this rich world filled with pirates, a lost city, wilderness, the deeps, sea monsters, and many mysteries. On board of one ship is young woman Kindred, hired as a hearth keeper, who operates the magical fire keeping the ship afloat and propelling it forward. The story follows Kindred and the crew as a bildungsroman between adventures hunt by and hunting pirates, discovering the wild sea, dripping a little bit of romance, fighting fierce ship battles, and stopping for marveling at the beautiful prairie sea. It slowly develops the magic of this world and the driving forces behind it, never stopping with opening new doors to the next miracle, innovation, and reckless dive to rescue the crew of the next breathless catastrophe. While giving room for exploration and quite moments, another betrayal and change of directions waits around the corner. I cannot stop admiring this perfect tension arc which doesn’t end in a cliffhanger but doesn’t go slack and leaves the reader wanting more of this. Kindred is clearly the main protagonist and gets enough sympathy and background so that one only can love this reckless woman and wonder where her next move will lead her. Also, the rest of the crew shows color and with all the epic turns are relatable and figures of their own right. This is the start of a new fantasy series by a new author. Alas, now I have to wait until the next volume. Highly recommended for readers of fantasy who like character- and plot-driven, action rich stories with a vast new world to be explored.

  3. 5 out of 5

    ♠ TABI⁷ ♠

    forget everything else but the AESTHETIC of this book because that's why I'm here forget everything else but the AESTHETIC of this book because that's why I'm here

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mary Robinette Kowal

    I can rarely remember being this excited for a debut novel. This was everything I wanted it to be. Wind-swept prairie seas, pirates, magic, and found families.

  5. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Kindred has just returned from a near-devastating journey on the Forever Sea when she learns her estranged grandmother has stepped into the grass and killed herself. Or has she? "Let us escape again," the storyteller says, clapping his hands to gather their attention, "to a story of senseless violence and distrust, a story of love and hope, a story of our worst natures and the devastation a few might wreak." Hovering between a 3.5 and a 4. This is undeniably a book about climate change and the way Kindred has just returned from a near-devastating journey on the Forever Sea when she learns her estranged grandmother has stepped into the grass and killed herself. Or has she? "Let us escape again," the storyteller says, clapping his hands to gather their attention, "to a story of senseless violence and distrust, a story of love and hope, a story of our worst natures and the devastation a few might wreak." Hovering between a 3.5 and a 4. This is undeniably a book about climate change and the ways humanity has pruned and scourged nature to resemble a tamed version of itself, and how resources are wasted and used without regard until it's too late. The setting of the world was fantastic, with some really interesting magic and world-systems, and a fascinating insight into what motivates people, governments, and civilizations, and the various ways folks live around and among the world. Plus, there's the entire concept of an ocean made of grass, that stretches impossibly into forever (at least over four miles) and had weird magical properties that allow for it to grow that high and fuck with people's minds when they are below the blades. In addition, there are ships that cruise along the tops of the grass (never below), powered by a special fire managed by hearthkeepers like Kindred. Various kinds of grasses are used as food, medicine, power and magic sources, and keep the economy of Kindred's home going. I LOVED the worldbuilding (however, wanted less purple plant prose), wanted more conclusions/wrap-up at the end than what I got, and felt that nearly 500 pages was far too long to have it end with pretty much nothing resolved. I did enjoy the dichotomy of Kindred's home city (forgot its name, whoops) and the Once-City, who interact with nature in two completely different yet equally destructive ways. Kindred's city is one that has erased nature from itself. It exists solely to bring nature to its knees, ignoring the management of the prairie in order to get more, more, more. As a result, it's running out of water for its people, and strict rations are set in place to keep the population going. Its high stone walls protect it from the sea, and create barriers to further remove the population from nature. Its hearthkeepers use strict, rote builds to create and wield the fires that power their ships, with no thought for listening to the fire save for more ways to control it. On the other hand, the Once-City operates entirely within the prairie. It's people use living grass for their homes and is seemingly a world where the people are entirely in tune with their environment. They want for nothing, and it's almost idealistic, save for when Kindred remembers it's run by pirates who supplement the have-nots with other people's possessions, and when she learns that the council is keeping a deadly secret from its population. I was initially unsure about a man writing a woman main character (I always tread carefully with these because of the Strong Female Character trope), much less a lesbian, but he did well. Stayed within his lane, didn't write too much that was cringe. However, the plot dragged, particularly when the author skipped off to describe the various variations of the prairie seas and how the light would hit each individual blade of grass (yes, each individual blade was described in detail, several times). Which was cool at first, and then it continued and I was like, stop describing and let's get this plot going again. However, like the Once-City, the plot was moored fast for longer than it needed to be, and became bogged down in description after description, as if the lesson on show vs tell was switched to MAXIMUM SHOW. 3.5 stars because the plot was intriguing, and despite the tendency to go overboard in describing the sea, I really, really enjoyed the worldbuilding and the general mystery of the after and the before (the storyteller is used as a framing device that kinda works, but leaves more questions than answers at the end). Don't know if I'll stick around for book 2, mainly because in a book that long I wanted more answers and resolutions than what I got. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nils | nilsreviewsit

    “Kindred closed her eyes into the prairie wind, feeling it’s familiar whisper against her cheek, neck, eyelids. The low-slung slant of late-afternoon light might have grown too warm, but the wind tempered it until Kindred’s face felt perfectly warmed, perfectly cooled.” Joshua Johnson’s debut The Forever Sea immediately caught my eye after seeing the vibrant and quite magical cover art on both the US and UK editions. The multicoloured grass and the ship sailing upon it immediately caught my eye a “Kindred closed her eyes into the prairie wind, feeling it’s familiar whisper against her cheek, neck, eyelids. The low-slung slant of late-afternoon light might have grown too warm, but the wind tempered it until Kindred’s face felt perfectly warmed, perfectly cooled.” Joshua Johnson’s debut The Forever Sea immediately caught my eye after seeing the vibrant and quite magical cover art on both the US and UK editions. The multicoloured grass and the ship sailing upon it immediately caught my eye and lured me into finding out exactly what this tale was all about. The world of The Forever Sea has to be one of the most ingenious and completely mesmerising fantasy worlds I’ve come across.The island of Arcadia holds a myriad of wonders; a sea of grass, creatures lurking within its depths, murderous pirates, and ships run by hearthfires and the bones of captains long dead. From the very onset Johnson entirely immersed me into his delightfully fantastical creation. The novel begins with a mysterious storyteller who comes to the village known only as Twist. With his arrival he brings a moment of solace to the tribe who live in perpetual fear of the monsters which dwell within the depths of the grass. We see the world is crumbling in ruin, the tribe’s numbers are few, the people are on the brink of starvation, they live in darkness, their homes are decaying. They welcome the storyteller who offers protection while his story is being told, yet we do not know how. Despite the villagers' hardship, they become enraptured when the storyteller begins his tale. I particularly love a framed narrative style and Johnson expertly uses it here as the storyteller embarks upon Kindred’s story. It is a story full of adventure, a quest for discovery, but also consists of peril and loss. Our main protagonist, Kindred, is on board The Errant, sailing across the endless sea of grass. With pirates on her tail and attacks from monstrous beings, Kindred has one of the most important jobs in the ship’s crew. A hearthfire at the centre of the ship works to keep it afloat, to give it much needed speed, and Kindred, using the bones of dead captains, must shape and wield the flames in order to control the ship. Kindred is a hearthfire keeper and if she fails in her task then whatever dangers and mysteries lay hidden in the depths of the sea will claim them all. Yet Kindred has one advantage, her grandmother The Marchess is one of the most renowned hearthfire keepers, and through her tutelage Kindred can sing to the flames and shape the bones in ways which have never been taught to others. The only question is, does Kindred have the strength to live up to her grandmother’s notoriety and simultaneously use her own natural instincts too? “Kindred felt herself falling down through those waves, the silken slide of grass rubbing her arms, cushioning her back as she descended into the unknown, every breath a discovery, every new sensation a wonder. Listen for me in the grasses and listen for me below.” Kindred is presented as a free spirit, she is a character who has been taught by her grandmother to always follow her heart before her head, and so her use of magic reflects this. I adored the magic in this book - there is no system here, no rigid rules. Johnson presents to us a magic born of chaos and intuition, of song and rhythm, something wild and unfettered. Although Kindred must wield the fire to do her bidding, she must learn to become one with it, to coax the flames rather than force them to her will. There were some questionable decisions made by Kindred, I felt she made a few unnecessarily reckless choices and didn't quite think through the consequences of her actions, which on occasion put the whole crew in jeopardy. Having said that, I enjoyed Kindred’s exploration of her abilities, she is flawed and makes mistakes, but at her heart she is just desperate to follow the path in which her grandmother set forth, damning the cost. With such a wild main protagonist comes an unpredictable plot, which created such an exhilarating ride. Johnson then furthers the framed narrative structure as Kinded often recalls upon tales of her time with her grandmother, the adventures they went on together. Shown through flashbacks, we see the Marchess had great affection for Kindred, and in Kindred clinging to these memories we see just how much she meant to her too. These were some of my favourite parts of the novel - though their relationship was often strained by conflicting views, they still retained so much love, it truly seeped off the page. Both my grandmothers died when I was of a young age, therefore I never got to form a relationship with them, I found seeing the bond and unconditional love between Kindred and her grandmother absolutely touching. “The Marches laughed, and Kindred smiled through her tears. She thought she’d never hear that laugh again, and yet there it was, as if it had never left the world.” Although the book is told through two POV’s, we are still treated to a well-fleshed out eclectic band of side characters. The crew on board The Errant mostly consisted of females, and I greatly appreciated Johnson subverting the stereotype of only ‘men being at sea’ here. There is also a budding romance between Ragged Sarah and Kindred, which enriched the narrative further with another heartwarming story arc. I have seen The Forever Sea likened to that of Studio Ghibli anime’s, and funnily enough I just recently watched Nausicaa, and although both are different they do share environmental themes of pollution and a sickness causing nature to decay. Both are set upon a world which is slowly dying. Despite the sea of grass holding much peril, it is also a fundamental source for the people of Arcadia. The world’s many variations of flora and fauna can be harvested for medicinal purposes, for use in clothing, food, and trade too. However as the narrative begins to unfurl, we see that human interference with nature is one of the significant causes for its destruction. Much like in Nausicaa, we discover that humans are the real monsters. As much beauty as I found in Johnson’s world-building I found also in his exquisite prose. This was definitely a story which carried me along on its lyrical waves and left me with a sense of wonderment. The Forever Sea is a celebration of storytelling, it is the exploration of an enigmatic world in which we have only just touched the surface of, and with the ending left wide open, I can see there is plenty more story to tell. “Kindred grew large: her roots sank deep, her leaves and petals drank in the same sunlight as the reef, the Roughs, her heart the Sea’s, the Sea’s heart forever hers.” ARC provided by Sarah Mather at Titan Books. Thank you for the e-ARC!

  7. 5 out of 5

    imyril

    Hands down one of the most original fantasy worlds I've read recently, with a strong narrative through-line about choosing your place in the world and a cast delightful for being predominantly female and casually queer. Throw in some entirely magical moments and this is an unusual and memorable debut. While there were aspects that didn't quite work for me, Joshua Phillip Johnson is definitely one to watch. A big imagination, a wild heart. Full review I received a free copy from the publisher in e Hands down one of the most original fantasy worlds I've read recently, with a strong narrative through-line about choosing your place in the world and a cast delightful for being predominantly female and casually queer. Throw in some entirely magical moments and this is an unusual and memorable debut. While there were aspects that didn't quite work for me, Joshua Phillip Johnson is definitely one to watch. A big imagination, a wild heart. Full review I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I really, really wanted to love this book.  Just look at the beautiful cover!  It features the sea!  Pirates!  Female Captains!  Magic!  Sadly, I had to abandon ship at 50% cause the story wasn't working.  I even spoiled the ending by reading other reviews to see if I should push through in case it got better.  I chose to stop. The Pros: - The Setting:  This featu Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . . I really, really wanted to love this book.  Just look at the beautiful cover!  It features the sea!  Pirates!  Female Captains!  Magic!  Sadly, I had to abandon ship at 50% cause the story wasn't working.  I even spoiled the ending by reading other reviews to see if I should push through in case it got better.  I chose to stop. The Pros: - The Setting:  This features a sea that is not water but grass!  There is a world beneath the grass but humans don't know what exists there besides monsters.  Cool concept.  I particularly liked that instead of fishing, sailors sail around to harvest different types of grass and plants. - The Magic:  I really enjoyed the idea of the hearth fires helping to run the ship.  I adored the bird-caller having feathered friends help with navigation. - Lots of female characters:  There are all female sailing crews.  They do not pine for men but rather for adventure and loot.  Arrr! - Water Subplot: I liked the idea of the water shortage on Arcadia and how it affected the social structure and rules of the city. The Cons: - The Main Character:  Kindred (horrible name) ended up making me upset with her actions.  She was selfish, impulsive, reckless, and irrational. - The Framing Device: I hated this.  It takes place far in a dystopian future where a supernatural type being is telling the history of the world.  It was a boring beginning to the novel and interrupted story flow every time. - The Magic:  While the magic ideas were fun, they really didn't make any sense in terms of how they functioned or what the rules were.  The author chose to make Kindred learn by instinct.  This made the magic seem like gibberish. - Repetitive Themes: I got tired of the author making the same points over and over again.  Kindred's unorthodox and reckless use of hearth fire.  How her training was both truncated and haphazard.  Her unusual love for and connection to the sea.  How she is Special.  How Kindred's grandmother was a Larger than Life Figure.  Humans causing environmental devastation.  Seriously this book needed trimming. - The Plot: The story did not make sense to me in the slightest.  Kindred chooses to lie to everyone and go on a hazardous crusade regardless of the consequences to those she cares about.  The reasons for this abrupt turn around of her beliefs were silly.  The evil villain had lame politics of "power at any cost" and felt completely flat.  Much of that subplot felt forced.  I didn't even get to the actual pirate town because I was so bored and the pacing was so slow.  When the giant wrym battle happened I was perplexed at how uninteresting it was.  I should have loved the life on the sea but the events in the story were all too coincidental or too simple.  Character motivations also seemed petty or nonsensical. This book appealed in concepts but it didn’t work for me at all in the end.  To the grass wyrms it goes.  Arrrr! So lastly . . . Thank you DAW!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tammy

    The nitty-gritty: A unique seafaring story set in a brilliantly inventive world and populated with interesting characters, The Forever Sea was a feast for the senses. Never has a book surprised me as much as The Forever Sea. What started as a slog through heavily detailed worldbuilding and a slow moving plot suddenly made a 180 at about the halfway point. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m so glad I decided to push through. I think it took half the book to get used to Johnson’s style, which I re The nitty-gritty: A unique seafaring story set in a brilliantly inventive world and populated with interesting characters, The Forever Sea was a feast for the senses. Never has a book surprised me as much as The Forever Sea. What started as a slog through heavily detailed worldbuilding and a slow moving plot suddenly made a 180 at about the halfway point. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m so glad I decided to push through. I think it took half the book to get used to Johnson’s style, which I really didn’t like in the beginning, but something clicked for me, and I ended up loving the second half of the book. This book isn’t perfect by any means, which I’ll explain below. But I can’t deny the sheer brilliance of the world building, and Johnson’s prose really did grow on me. Add in an exciting and very emotional conclusion, and you have a book that was frustratingly uneven, but in a good way. Does that make sense? The story is set in a land called Arcadia, an island surrounded by the Forever Sea, an endless expanse of prairie grasses and flowers. Kindred Greyreach has just joined the sailing ship The Errant as a junior hearthfire keeper and is struggling to integrate herself with her new crew members. But when she hears about the sudden disappearance of her beloved grandmother, the Marchess, who taught Kindred all the mysteries of being a hearthfire keeper, Kindred is determined to go after her. Her crew swears that the Marchess stepped off the side of her ship into the deeps, but Kindred doesn’t believe her grandmother would commit suicide. Kindred convinces Captain Caraway to head towards the floating city of Once-City, a mysterious place where pirates are said to live, with the ulterior motive of getting closer to the spot her grandmother disappeared. But life out in the Roughs is dangerous, and Kindred and her friends might not survive the trip. The main draw for most readers is going to be Johnson’s unique and magical world. Even before I saw some comparisons to Studio Ghibli, I thought this story would make a fantastic animated movie. Seriously, someone get Miyazaki on the phone! I have seen comparisons to other fantasy worlds, but I personally have never experienced anything quite like the Forever Sea and Once-City. The Forever Sea itself is marvelous. Instead of water, the “sea” is made up of wild grasses, plants and flowers and stretches as far as the eye can see and beyond. Upon this sea sail ships, many of them dedicated to harvesting the grass bounty for food and profit. Ships sail over the surface without sinking due to magical fires that are tended by hearthfire keepers, and the fires are fed with the bones of dead ship’s captains. By arranging the bones in certain patterns, keepers can control the speed and behavior of the ship, and it’s a tricky job that requires years of skill. In the first half of the book, Kindred and the crew of The Errant stick close to their home of Arcadia where the sea has been flattened and tamed, ensuring smooth sailing for all ships. But once they leave for the wilder parts of the Forever Sea, the crew will encounter the Roughs, areas that have not been tamed, full of thorns and grasping vines that dig into the ship’s hull and try to pull it under.  And speaking of “under,” you might be wondering what lies below the surface of a sea of grass. That is the big mystery in The Forever Sea, one that the reader gets only a glimpse of in this first installment. Johnson teases us with brief dips below, where giant creatures called wyrms threaten ships, and a mythical city might wait at the bottom. The mystery that drives the plot is, of course, what happened to the Marchess? Did she actually jump into the sea and disappear? And will Kindred be brave enough to go after her? Once the crew of The Errant reaches the famed floating city of Once-City, the story really takes off. After everything that came before, I thought Johnson had reached his creative limits, but Once-City is another marvelous creation that you’ll have to discover for yourself.  I loved many the characters as well, although I’ll admit Kindred is tough to love. She refuses to obey her captain’s orders, makes rash decisions on a dime and carries them out without too much thought, and is constantly putting herself and the crew in mortal danger. She’s driven by her desire to find her grandmother, but doesn’t seem to care if anyone is hurt along the way. However, Kindred isn’t the only character in the story, luckily. My favorite was Little Wing, a bitter woman who is on the brink of becoming a sea captain herself. Unfortunately, Kindred’s rash actions prevent that from happening, and the two become mortal enemies. Little Wing’s storyline was heartbreaking, and I hope she makes an appearance in the next book (I’m pretty sure she will!). I also loved Ragged Sarah, an ex-pirate who acts as a romantic interest for Kindred.  As I mentioned, I struggled in the first half of the book with Johnson’s overly descriptive prose as he sets up his world and introduces his characters. His prose leans towards the flowery and poetic, and at first this style did not work for me. However, the more I read and the deeper into the story I went, this writing style settled and became an integral part of the overall reading experience. I also had trouble with all the scenes involving the hearth fires and Kindred’s amazing ability to not only conjure up the perfect fire, but to save the crew over and over. Granted, Johnson’s idea of a magical fire is intricate and at times hard to understand—if you think about it, how could a fire in the middle of a ship’s deck keep the ship from sinking into a sea of grass? Logically it doesn’t make sense—but he took pains to explain the process each and every time Kindred had to tend to the fire. These repetitive descriptions got old fast, and it’s one reason I almost stopped reading the book. But the biggest negative for me was the uneven pacing and length of the book. According to Goodreads, The Forever Sea is 464 pages, but it felt a lot longer than that to me (I read an eARC so I can’t confirm the actual page count). It took a solid two weeks for me to read this, and it should not have taken that long. The slower sections of the story are occasionally broken up by some very exciting action scenes, but the story really drags in places, which is a shame. Bottom line, there is a lot to love about The Forever Sea, despite the pacing issues and overabundance of detailed descriptions. Johnson has imaged a stunning world that held me captive, and I loved the thrilling and emotional ending. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I cannot wait to read the sequel. Big thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    ReadBecca

    Imagine it with me. A Sea so deep that none who walked above had ever seen its floor. A Sea reaching so far east that none who had set sail for its end ever returned. Well, almost none. As large as it was unknowable; that was the Forever Sea in those days, and those wild enough, or mad enough, would sail on it. A storyteller recounts a story of the past, the story of Kindred the Hearthkeeper for the crew of The Errant and granddaughter of the Marchess. When Kindred's grandmother walks off the sid Imagine it with me. A Sea so deep that none who walked above had ever seen its floor. A Sea reaching so far east that none who had set sail for its end ever returned. Well, almost none. As large as it was unknowable; that was the Forever Sea in those days, and those wild enough, or mad enough, would sail on it. A storyteller recounts a story of the past, the story of Kindred the Hearthkeeper for the crew of The Errant and granddaughter of the Marchess. When Kindred's grandmother walks off the side of her ship in the Roughs and down into the deep, leaving only a letter for her behind, Kindred is left reeling to understand. She's left with no time to mourn though, on Arcadia a cabal is being organized to control the water by villanous Cantrev, but the Errant's crew are quickly on his bad side. They find themselves on the run with nowhere to turn, but the dream of reaching the fabled pirate town of the Once City as their haven. This is a very impressive debut novel, particularly in terms of invention. The magic and worldbuilding are like nothing else I've read, with hearthkeepers using bones to build hearthfires that power the ships, and singing along with the voices of the fire. I think this is a great opposite to popularized hard magic trend of magic as akin to science, we sort of learn how they do things, but not only do we not know why, in world they just know what works and not really why it works that way. This can go a bit far in the suspension of disbelief for me personally, where definitely an explanation for things working is "it's magic", I just wanted a bit more logic or explanation of the internal consistency - for instance a character describes being tangled in the grasses, yet there are somehow magical beast that move through the grasses, and ships can dive downward. The bother at the back of my mind that I want to know how it makes sense hampered my immersion a bit, but I would say especially in the second half the really incredible and fresh worldbuilding that we see, more than made up for that. The writing is also beautiful and thoughtful, descriptive without being overly flowery: The island city proliferated before Kindred, streets stretching and winding through darkness, covered in the refuse of its people and its refused people. Prairie dwellings bulged from the ground like pockets of inflamed, infected flesh. Lights flickered in windows and on streets, suggesting what lay in darkness even while bringing homes and shops into existence in the night. Beyond the prose quality of the writing, it carries the weight of talking about a changing world, where humanity is destroying its resources that they rely on - already scarce water, the grasses of the sea that they use for magical and medicinal purposes. Every day we strive more to break the environment to our will. Flatten the Sea. Sell the water. Chain the animals and order the plants. In our arrogance, we have forgotten ourselves to be a product of this place. A participant in it. One star in a grand constellation. The one place that didn't work for me is that the characters (a strong majority female cast) lacked a bit of humanity. If you think of sailors or really anyone in tight proximity over long periods, they have to have a sense of humor or people wind up in fights (or both), but here there was really none of that. The characters are just serious all of the time, 2 characters with a boisterous personality (one humorous and one full of rage) are introduced past the halfway point, but stuck out from everyone else immensely for it. There is also an F/F relationship, I wouldn't really call a romance because there wasn't really any obvious build up or chemistry for the reader, but over all it's there in the background and I thought it was fine. The general heaviness and constantly super serious tone made it feel like reading a much longer book than if there were some levity. Overall, this is a very good book, a little more heart and it would have been a near perfect book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michael Stewart

    What a fantastic world! You’ve never seen this, instantly recognizable yet completely alien, head slapping ‘why didn’t I think of that’ awesomeness, the closest comparable might be Chuck Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy. A well thought through magic system with a ton of room to grow, pirates, strong LGBTQ+ rep, did I mention pirates? Some of whom are creepy AF (Word). The story follows Kindred a hearthfire keeper (think magical ship’s boiler where the fuel is captains bones) in her quest to find her g What a fantastic world! You’ve never seen this, instantly recognizable yet completely alien, head slapping ‘why didn’t I think of that’ awesomeness, the closest comparable might be Chuck Wendig’s Heartland Trilogy. A well thought through magic system with a ton of room to grow, pirates, strong LGBTQ+ rep, did I mention pirates? Some of whom are creepy AF (Word). The story follows Kindred a hearthfire keeper (think magical ship’s boiler where the fuel is captains bones) in her quest to find her grandmother and find her own path. It’s a beautiful story, with a well paced character development and lyrical, stunning prose. It’s very obvious that we’ve just scratched the surface of this world and I can’t wait to continue into the Deep!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard

    I enjoyed this! Don't go in expecting fast paced pirating. It's so much more about the world and the story instead. I don't think it will be for everyone but it was for me. A few lulls in the pace but the world was just so interesting and adding the element that the story is being told in the book (think the way The Princess Bride movie has the grandpa telling the story) just made it better. The conflict of fighting over resources is definitely something we can all relate to. I will definitely be I enjoyed this! Don't go in expecting fast paced pirating. It's so much more about the world and the story instead. I don't think it will be for everyone but it was for me. A few lulls in the pace but the world was just so interesting and adding the element that the story is being told in the book (think the way The Princess Bride movie has the grandpa telling the story) just made it better. The conflict of fighting over resources is definitely something we can all relate to. I will definitely be pre-ordering the next book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Arka

    This book has an absolutely stunning setting - a gigantic sea of grass and plants over which ships ply, powered by magical fires that are tended to by special singers. Add to that setting an island community that is in the middle of political change as resources get scarce, fiercely independent ship captains who want to sail the forever sea, fierce pirates that haunt the horizon and disturbing mysteries and rumours about something wrong with the sea and you have the recipe for a very original fa This book has an absolutely stunning setting - a gigantic sea of grass and plants over which ships ply, powered by magical fires that are tended to by special singers. Add to that setting an island community that is in the middle of political change as resources get scarce, fiercely independent ship captains who want to sail the forever sea, fierce pirates that haunt the horizon and disturbing mysteries and rumours about something wrong with the sea and you have the recipe for a very original fantasy. The protagonist is a singer and she has some very original ideas about how to sing a ship on its way. Her grandmother is also a famous captain and clearly a huge influence on her character. What I liked about this book was how it showed the different lives on the Forever Sea. We see shipboard life, life on Arcadia and we go on to see a lot more. Also the broader framing narrative was very interesting and immediately implied something bigger going on. My one critique is that this book is heavily dependent on a sequel to uphold the consistency of the story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Runalong

    An extremely impressive start to a new series that mixes ships, pirates and an endless five mile deep sea of grass they sail on. Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl... An extremely impressive start to a new series that mixes ships, pirates and an endless five mile deep sea of grass they sail on. Full review - https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Geordie Clark

    When rating a book, I don't consider 1-5 stars to be a scale of how close to fundamentally perfect it is (though that does play a role). I ask myself the question 'did this book achieve what is set out to achieve?' If it's a horror novel, I think about if it scared me or not. If it's a thriller, I think about whether or not it had me on the edge of my seat. If it's fantasy, among other things, I ask myself this: "Did I enjoy my stay in this world?" If the answer is yes, I consider it good fantas When rating a book, I don't consider 1-5 stars to be a scale of how close to fundamentally perfect it is (though that does play a role). I ask myself the question 'did this book achieve what is set out to achieve?' If it's a horror novel, I think about if it scared me or not. If it's a thriller, I think about whether or not it had me on the edge of my seat. If it's fantasy, among other things, I ask myself this: "Did I enjoy my stay in this world?" If the answer is yes, I consider it good fantasy. If I find it difficult to pick up another book because I'm so attached the world I was just in, and feel myself screaming and crying at the thought of leaving, I consider it very, very good fantasy. You ever have a book hangover? Like you enjoyed a book so much you're almost depressed after you finish it, because you just want more? That's exactly how this book makes me feel. The Forever Sea is absolutely beautiful. The descriptions of the world- the characters, magic, structures, cities, lore, monsters, and of course, the Forever Sea itself, are intricate, gorgeous, and just fun to read. In any other book I might describe the prose as flowery (no pun intended), but here it just fits in so well with what its describing, I can't imagine it being written any other way. I'm sure a lot of people are drawn in by the incredible cover art (I'm one of them), and the world and writing style more than live up to it. This book has a aesthetic that isn't just hard to find elsewhere, I think it may be near impossible to do just so well. You really see every last piece of grass and flower and plank of wood. There are a handful of imperfections. This is Johnson's first novel, and at times you can tell. The dialogue can be a bit awkward and bloated from time to time. Though the world is as original as any I can think of, the characters, dialogue, and plot have their share of clichés. A number of the characters are undeveloped beyond their surface level attributes. With all that said, nothing is so atrocious it detracts from the enjoyability of the novel. It's just that the world-building is a 5/5, whereas most other aspects are 3s or 4s. So, did I enjoy my stay in this world? Yes, yes, a million times yes, and I absolutely cannot wait to go back. While it has its fair share of blemishes, this is a book that absolutely achieves what it set out to achieve, and absolutely deserving of a 5 star rating.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    The Forever Sea is an unusual and unique book and I haven’t read anything quite like it before. The whole concept, if somewhat odd, is completely captivating. A pirate inspired adventure in which ships sail on an endless and fathomless sea of prairie grass. Creatures lurk beneath and it is hinted there may be an undiscovered world below. The world and magic system are fascinating and richly described and I particularly enjoyed reading about the flora and fauna in this magical setting, as well as The Forever Sea is an unusual and unique book and I haven’t read anything quite like it before. The whole concept, if somewhat odd, is completely captivating. A pirate inspired adventure in which ships sail on an endless and fathomless sea of prairie grass. Creatures lurk beneath and it is hinted there may be an undiscovered world below. The world and magic system are fascinating and richly described and I particularly enjoyed reading about the flora and fauna in this magical setting, as well as the gorgeous descriptions of life out at sea. The writing is beautiful, lyrical and completely spellbinding. The story follows Kindred, who is the hearth keeper of a ship that sails on the Forever Sea harvesting plants and grubs. It is her duty to tend to the heart fire that powers the ship across the Forever Sea. Hearth fires are made up of burning bones, with flames spurred into life and controlled by the song of the hearth keeper. This magic system is is so interesting and I was entranced by the chapter on the hearth fire rules. The author creates atmosphere and tension interspersed with some much slower paced scenes, but the ever changing situations and scenery keeps the reader thoroughly engaged. I particularly liked the scene when the ship dives under the surface of the sea, the sky disappears and we are left looking at the striated dense walls of plants growing all around the ship. The wyrm attach was also a pretty intense scene! The diverse cast of characters aboard The Errant caught my attention, these strong female dominated characters completely captured my heart. There is a hint of romance in the storyline but this is very much in the background of the plot and doesn’t monopolise the main storyline. The Forever Sea is the first book in a thrilling new fantasy series and I’m really looking forward to exploring this world further. The world is vivid and detailed and the reader cannot help but become totally mesmerised. The story is beautifully crafted, exciting and completely unpredictable. Highly recommended for fantasy lovers seeking something a little bit different from the usual seafaring fantasy adventure. Thank you so much to Titan Books for my early review copy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Imagine yourself on a ship in the middle of a sea of miles deep prairie grass, pirates, a war over water between two floating cities. These are the ideas I had, when I read the blurb and saw the cover of the book. Alas, that’s not what I got. Instead of a fantasy adventure, I got a Bildungsroman with a heavy climate change moral tale that could have been so much better with a bit of pruning from an experienced editor. Kindred, the main character, is a hearth keeper on a harvesting vessel crossing Imagine yourself on a ship in the middle of a sea of miles deep prairie grass, pirates, a war over water between two floating cities. These are the ideas I had, when I read the blurb and saw the cover of the book. Alas, that’s not what I got. Instead of a fantasy adventure, I got a Bildungsroman with a heavy climate change moral tale that could have been so much better with a bit of pruning from an experienced editor. Kindred, the main character, is a hearth keeper on a harvesting vessel crossing the Forever Sea harvesting grasses and wildflowers used for food, medicine, or magic. She has to take care of the magical fire burning bones harvested from captains that keeps the ship afloat and propels it forwards. When she receives a missive from her grandmother – a larger than life figure which the reader is reminded of over and over – Kindred wants to follow her grandmother into the depths below the prairie grass that makes up the Forever Sea. Something must still be down there, something other than monsters. For years there has been a war over the water stores between Arcadia, an island city which basically enslaved nature, and the Once-City, a floating ship like city travelling endlessly along the edges of the Forever Sea which “lived with the world,” acting in tune with nature. The ship Kindred had signed onto has to flee Arcadia, the crew is badly injured in a fight and has to seek the Once-City for help. Unsurprisingly, neither city is the refuge it seems to be. ... Full review: https://sceptre.sktc.hamburg/2021/01/...

  18. 4 out of 5

    A.R. Hellbender

    DNFed at 25%. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling this book. I was really looking forward to it because the premise sounded so interesting, but the lack of any character depth right from the start really made my interest dwindle. A big part of this book is the mystery of what exists beneath the sea of grass, because no one has been able to find that out, and everyone assumes that someone who goes into it dies. However, we're not given any real reason why this mystery needs to be solved, which is par DNFed at 25%. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling this book. I was really looking forward to it because the premise sounded so interesting, but the lack of any character depth right from the start really made my interest dwindle. A big part of this book is the mystery of what exists beneath the sea of grass, because no one has been able to find that out, and everyone assumes that someone who goes into it dies. However, we're not given any real reason why this mystery needs to be solved, which is part of what makes a good secret that the book keeps from the reader. All we really get is that a character we were never introduced to has already gone below, into the forever sea, when the story needed a more pressing reason to be keeping this mystery going. We're not shown any big problems that might be solved by whatever is found below, just...that no one really knows what's down there or has come back. So after completing 1/4th of this book and feeling much the same as I did during the first few chapters, I decided not to finish it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Arina

    I made swift work of this book and well, that's my year off to a great start! This book is so extremely imaginative that I loved every second of it. It’s rooted in ecological metaphors, creating interesting allegories. It’s got that very timely, very intriguing ecological discourse wrapped up in a world that’s so intensely magical, and explores many personal messages that will touch the readers' hearts. All the loving tropes of fantasy like floating cities, ravenous pirates, mythical sea beasts f I made swift work of this book and well, that's my year off to a great start! This book is so extremely imaginative that I loved every second of it. It’s rooted in ecological metaphors, creating interesting allegories. It’s got that very timely, very intriguing ecological discourse wrapped up in a world that’s so intensely magical, and explores many personal messages that will touch the readers' hearts. All the loving tropes of fantasy like floating cities, ravenous pirates, mythical sea beasts from the deep, hidden worlds beneath darkness, and more are expertly subverted in reimagined mythical lore. The magic system is a delightfully macabre one and Kindred is such a great morally gray character! Through her, Joshua transports us to an intoxicating adventure of Ghibli-esque atmosphere and just unceremoniously plunges us into a world that feels both so imaginarily fantastical as it does familiar. Really, get yourself a copy today! ***** *My warm thanks to DAW and Netgalley for the ARC of the book in exchange for my honest review. Read my full review on my blog!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    *4.25 This book was an explosion of imaginative and world-building and I loved it. Can't wait for the sequel! Full review to come. *4.25 This book was an explosion of imaginative and world-building and I loved it. Can't wait for the sequel! Full review to come.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Louise

    THE FOREVER SEA is completely original and unique. It takes all the elements you love from pirate stories and reworks it along with science-fiction and dystopian elements in a world built around environmental scarcity. The world-building is top notch and incredibly creative. Cities woven together from nature itself. A sea of grasses that goes hides monsters in it’s depths. Magical fires that drive the ships, powered by songs and the bones of dead Captains. I had two (small) quibbles with THE FOREVER S THE FOREVER SEA is completely original and unique. It takes all the elements you love from pirate stories and reworks it along with science-fiction and dystopian elements in a world built around environmental scarcity. The world-building is top notch and incredibly creative. Cities woven together from nature itself. A sea of grasses that goes hides monsters in it’s depths. Magical fires that drive the ships, powered by songs and the bones of dead Captains. I had two (small) quibbles with THE FOREVER SEA. The pacing was a tad slow in places and I wasn’t a fan of the second POV as a framing device. Other than that, the book was really strong. The cast of characters are good fun, led largely by various strong women. The romance was a minor element but handled nicely, with good chemistry between the characters. It’s a great coming-of-age story in a world with loads of potential to explore. Clever, memorable and well-worth picking up.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dawn

    Can you give me half an hour while I rave about the imagination behind "The Forever Sea"? Please?! I was convinced "Joshua Phillip Johnson" was the pen name for a writing duo (minimum - it wouldn't have surprised me to find there was a whole collective of minds behind this book). The characters and world-building can't be faulted. It is an incredibly rich and vivid tale that was so easy to sink into (pardon the pun), and I can't wait for more. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. Th Can you give me half an hour while I rave about the imagination behind "The Forever Sea"? Please?! I was convinced "Joshua Phillip Johnson" was the pen name for a writing duo (minimum - it wouldn't have surprised me to find there was a whole collective of minds behind this book). The characters and world-building can't be faulted. It is an incredibly rich and vivid tale that was so easy to sink into (pardon the pun), and I can't wait for more. My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    C. Bear

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A slightly mixed bag, this one. It opens strongly, showing that Johnson is capable of intelligent, skilful writing. The premise is an engaging one - any fantasy reader who loved Robin Hobb's brilliant Liveship Traders series will be interested in Johnson's world where magic ships, powered by the bones of dead captains, sail an endless sea of giant grasses. There's some engaging battle scenes, some vivid writing, and I liked the all-female sailing crews and the queer representation. The books' en A slightly mixed bag, this one. It opens strongly, showing that Johnson is capable of intelligent, skilful writing. The premise is an engaging one - any fantasy reader who loved Robin Hobb's brilliant Liveship Traders series will be interested in Johnson's world where magic ships, powered by the bones of dead captains, sail an endless sea of giant grasses. There's some engaging battle scenes, some vivid writing, and I liked the all-female sailing crews and the queer representation. The books' environmental themes, while not subtle, are timely. However, I think Johnson has been let down by his editors, which is a shame (especially for a debut novel), as the novel is a bit baggy and repetitive, and would've really benefited from some judicious pruning. The novel's key concepts (Kindred's affinity for the sea, as opposed her society's oppressive view of it as either enemy or a commodity) is reiterated so often that it can become dull, and other key tenets of the story are also rehearsed again and again, and at times the world-building (especially of the Once City) is a bit too protracted, at the expense of story and momentum. I found the framing story - a storyteller recounting Kindred's story to a small community of post-apocalyptic survivors - the stronger thread, perhaps because it was written with greater economy. But it was only a small fraction of the overall novel, which is long and, at times, a bit dull. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, but I'm not sure that I'll read a sequel. There are some great ideas here, and I think Johnson can write very well - even beautifully, at times. This novel shows great potential, but was slightly let down by lax editing which should have steered the author to iron out some of the more heavy-handed and dragging moments.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lucy-May

    Rating: 4.5 This was such an exciting, unpredictable & entertaining adventure, & I wish I could dive straight back into it. I loved this world of grass oceans & fire fuelled ships, with pirates living in trees & trees stealing the living. I was so excited to start this book but it still completely blew me away & I just want to know more about this incredible universe that the author has created. I was never 100% sure where the plot would go, & my guess about where the rest of the series would go Rating: 4.5 This was such an exciting, unpredictable & entertaining adventure, & I wish I could dive straight back into it. I loved this world of grass oceans & fire fuelled ships, with pirates living in trees & trees stealing the living. I was so excited to start this book but it still completely blew me away & I just want to know more about this incredible universe that the author has created. I was never 100% sure where the plot would go, & my guess about where the rest of the series would go changed half a dozen times because the story just kept morphing into something different & surprising, but I loved every minute of it. I started this days before a university deadline, but had I been able to, I would’ve gone without sleep to finish this book in one sitting. Just brilliant. So, so brilliant. ⚠️ References to suicide (it does not happen in the story though), violence, ableism, burns, fires, surgical scenes, references to mental illness, battle scenes & death ⚠️ I was sent a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. Extended Review to follow.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from DAW in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I absolutely loved this book. I especially love books where every chapter there is a new exciting event taking place. The ambition Kindred had for finding her grandma and continuing her task as the hearthfire keeper in swimming along the majestic seas to find her grandma and save their kingdom. Little does Kindred know that beyond the waters are two cul This book was received as an ARC from DAW in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I absolutely loved this book. I especially love books where every chapter there is a new exciting event taking place. The ambition Kindred had for finding her grandma and continuing her task as the hearthfire keeper in swimming along the majestic seas to find her grandma and save their kingdom. Little does Kindred know that beyond the waters are two cultures at war and Kindred's grandma is the bait of this war and it's up to Kindred to not only save her grandma but bring peace to the cultures before they destroy not only each other but the rest of the kingdoms of the waters. This book got my heart pumping throughout most of the book and I almost screamed in excitement at many parts too. We will consider adding this title to our Sci-Fi collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Xerxes

    The Forever Sea is the start of something special. A new wave of environmental fantasy that I think is a unique start. It explores the fragility of human nature, but it also isn’t afraid to show the impact that humanity has wrought on mother nature. The real characters of this book are the ocean of grass itself, the beasts lurking in the depths of the underground seas, and the hidden mysteries that lie beneath. That said, I did find a few flaws here and there. Some parts of the novel I believed The Forever Sea is the start of something special. A new wave of environmental fantasy that I think is a unique start. It explores the fragility of human nature, but it also isn’t afraid to show the impact that humanity has wrought on mother nature. The real characters of this book are the ocean of grass itself, the beasts lurking in the depths of the underground seas, and the hidden mysteries that lie beneath. That said, I did find a few flaws here and there. Some parts of the novel I believed could have been trimmed. More interactions between Seraph and Kindred would have been nice because that is where I think the strength of the novel shines, and I shall explain why. Kindred in many ways, is a free and volatile character that wants to achieve her Grandmother’s dreams. In a way, the relationship between her Grandmother and Kindred lies fundamentally at the core of this novel. There are subtle hints given which unlock further mysteries as you read onwards. You will soon start to see the strengths and the weakness of this narrative effect. I am not an expert, but let’s say for example, without giving too many spoilers away. Strength can be that as Kindred burns the hearth fires, bones of former dead captains that have sailed the sea, you might see a clue or a visual memory that relates to her Grandmother. Her Grandmother was a tough pirate. But a weakness of that then draws on constantly reminding the reader of her Grandmother’s vision. That is something you’ll soon see, but it can get a bit repetitive. This is where I would have focused on what Kindred wants to achieve from doing what her Grandmother would have done, but in a much more different way. As a result, Kindred’s focus on her Grandmother’s legacy neglects another problem. When the novel goes from Kindred to other characters, as a result, the side-characters like Seraph, Captain Jane, Cantrev become more interesting. Kindred then, is focused on her Grandmother which detracts a little bit in my opinion. But this is typical of any fantasy novel at the start of a new series. I’ve read many, where sometimes main characters don’t need to be the main center of the action. Other side-characters drive the plot too. As this is a fantasy series, it takes time for characters to mature. However, I think a good focus in the next sequel would be to focus on what Kindred wants because as you’ll see many times in this novel, her end-game goal is shifting. Constantly wanting. She’s not always being satisfied with what she has in my opinion. Without discussing too much on the spoiler boundary, as she discovers clues within the rumored Once City, her viewpoint changes. Things get out of hand for all characters. Big battles occur between dreadnoughts and massive ships. Pirates plunder and steal. I feel the main story of this first novel focuses on a water war between two cultures. (And that’s the only way I can stop myself from spoiling too much). Moving onto the romance, I think it was well built, but it was rushed in my opinion. I am now finding myself of the opinion that romance in fantasy needs to stop happening so quickly. I need time to build myself with a character and feel they need to get together. Little Sarah and Kindred are a great couple together, but I would have wanted more emphasis which I think will be followed in the next sequel. Another flaw I could see was, the worldbuilding is excellent. There is enough distinction between cities, factions, kingdoms, and cities. The story isn’t afraid to tell you where it’s going, it’s very clear. It uncovers hidden lore, and Arcadia reminds me of Orisinium and Glenumbra from when I played Elder Scrolls Online. Many locations of this game I played, had a direct resemblance to what was being described in the novel. The Once City reminded me of an advanced civilization mixed with some interesting content. To put it this way, it reminded me of Clockwork City and the Ancient Dwarver Ruins of Tamriel being mixed. That’s as much as you’re going to get. The politics are interesting in this novel, but there isn’t enough of it. And this is a fundamental problem Kindred will face. I do not doubt that she wants to be free, I do not doubt that she wants to travel the world. But in that, politics will consume her quickly no matter where ever she goes, it is human nature. But you know, I am excited about the numerous worlds involved in this series. We could be going to exotic places. Heck, I would like to see a Mesoamerican world within this series. But we will see. The writing is superb, the side-characters are written to their exact purpose, and the novel’s lore and its unique ability to create a new system of magic are well thought out. In many ways, it resembles the Elder Scrolls Online for me, in scope and size. The dialogue and the narrative is well explained, and the story itself has a straight focus. I would want to see Kindred becoming and evolving more of her personality throughout the series, and I want to see what her goals are as opposed to following others. I think, in time she will. But she has much to learn. I liked Seraph. I also think I know who the storyteller is, but that’s me. Overall, it’s this novel that you need to have on your bookshelf in 2021. Fantastic work. I can’t wait to read the second sequel!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rowena Andrews

    There is no other way to start this review off than with that stunning cover. It’s absolutely beautiful, and from the moment I say it, I knew that I wanted to read this book. I love ships, the colours had me…and it was a ship on a sea of grass…what more do I need to say? Even more importantly the book is just as beautiful inside, both in terms of the worldbuilding and the writing. The worldbuilding is my favourite part of the book, and this has to be one of the most beautifully crafted and imagine There is no other way to start this review off than with that stunning cover. It’s absolutely beautiful, and from the moment I say it, I knew that I wanted to read this book. I love ships, the colours had me…and it was a ship on a sea of grass…what more do I need to say? Even more importantly the book is just as beautiful inside, both in terms of the worldbuilding and the writing. The worldbuilding is my favourite part of the book, and this has to be one of the most beautifully crafted and imagined worlds I’ve read. From the cover image of a ship sailing on grass, we know that this a different world, and Johnson takes you and launches into this strange new world. A world of limited water, with an endless grass sea, where ships are powered by magical hearthfires and fed by bones. What I loved was how the world wasn’t just a beautiful backdrop, but an intrinsic part of the fantasy because everything in this world was interwoven, and I enjoyed seeing how the people of the world had adapted to this environment – from what they ate, materials used, and how they lived their life. In a world where we are used to living and working against the environment often, this was refreshing to see. It also fed very much into the fact there was a strong environmental message throughout the book, another reason why The Forever Sea appealed to me from the beginning. The exploration of environmental degradation through The Forever sea, with over-harvesting and forcing people to travel further and further in search of materials, perpetuating the issue, and the ongoing water scarcity is both painfully real, and important to discuss, and the strangeness of this world doesn’t take away from that. I would like to have seen more of the issues that stemmed from this, such as the conflict over water and the different sides, as it felt that particular aspect was lost a little beneath Kindred’s story – but this is the first book in the series, and it doesn’t detract from the message being given here. What, I also enjoyed was that while the message was clear, it didn’t fall into the trap of being preached to us, because it was such an intrinsic part of the world and story, and I found it more powerful because of that. In terms of ‘magic’, I am both intrigued and left wanting more. The hearthfires that power the ships across the Forever Sea, use bones as fuel, but I feel as though there is a lot we don’t know about that process, especially when it comes to the harvesting of the bones. However, I loved the idea that while these fires could be tended by anyone, they sang for those who could hear them, and while it wasn’t necessarily the most overt magic system, there was something beautiful about that imagery and I look forward to learning more in future books. I will say that for me the worldbuilding completely stole the show, as I loved it and was immediately drawn into the world, and I loved the allusion to parts of the world we hadn’t yet seen, and the use of myths and legends, and storytelling to add breadth and depth to the world. I particularly enjoyed how that aspect was used to frame the story, with the arrival of the storyteller at the beginning, and I knew from that moment that I was going to enjoy this book… just not how much. The characters are well-written, and while it took me a little while to take to Kindred, she was a fantastic character if a little too reckless and headstrong at times. Yet, we could understand her motivations, and see what drove her, which made it easier to emphasize with her as we went on, and she is the kind of character that creeps into your heart and you find yourself liking her before you realise what is happening. The crew of her ship were a fascinating bunch, each of the well-realised from Sarah, to Little Wing and the Captain, and there is a sense of growth and change throughout the book, as well as tension, and they each breathed something new into the story. I also enjoyed the developing relationship between Sarah and Kindred, although there were a few places where it felt a little too rushed, but that I think is more down to personal preference than anything else. As I mentioned above, I loved the writing, Johnson’s prose was beautiful, and a perfect match for the world and story that he was weaving. However, there were a few places here and there where the writing was perhaps a little weaker than the rest of the book, there were a few bits that felt a little repetitive, and the pacing occasionally was a little off – torn between the fast-paced events, and slower internal reflection that wasn’t as balanced as they could have been. That said, I could have quite happily stayed in this world and kept reading for a lot longer, and in a book that has offered such a wonderful cast of characters, a world that is unique and took my breath away with its creativity and has pirates… it is little more than a minor grumble. This is a very strong debut and the first book in a series that set out to do something different and has more than done so, creating one of the most unique, imaginative worlds I have had the pleasure of diving into. I would highly recommend The Forever Sea, and I can’t wait to see where Kindred and the author take us next.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and DAW Books for providing an ARC!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Allison (SPELLBOUND READER)

    THIS COVER HAS ADDED 10 YEARS TO MY LIFE!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    Imagine a sea made not of water but of miles-deep prairie grass. Enter the world of The Forever Sea, where ships powered by magical, bone-burning hearthfires sail the prairie surface. Whereas most fire keepers follow strict rules and most sailors fear the unknown depths, Kindred follows her intuition and communicates with her fire as she dreams of what lies below. Her grandmother vanished under the surface to seek something more, the myths lying therein. And Kindred is consumed by the desire to Imagine a sea made not of water but of miles-deep prairie grass. Enter the world of The Forever Sea, where ships powered by magical, bone-burning hearthfires sail the prairie surface. Whereas most fire keepers follow strict rules and most sailors fear the unknown depths, Kindred follows her intuition and communicates with her fire as she dreams of what lies below. Her grandmother vanished under the surface to seek something more, the myths lying therein. And Kindred is consumed by the desire to follow. This is a fascinating fantasy concept and a weighty rumination on humans' role in the environment. Much of the conflict in the story revolves around how most people in the story view the sea, hearthfires, and the world at large (including one another) as something to dominate and circumscribe. Kindred and her grandmother represent another path forward, one where they bend to natural ways, commune with them, and do not fear what is outside their control. The thoughtful story left me with some hangups, though. The main issue for me was pedantic pacing. This wasn't the high seas adventure I anticipated so much as a careful consideration of where we go wrong with the environment and with our fellow humans. That is a perfectly worthy goal, but I think the messaging was a bit heavy-handed and repetitive, making the plot sluggish. Think less swashbuckling, more staring at the horizon and ruminating on life's bigger questions. Even sea battles are interrupted with remembrances and theorizing. For me, it was frustrating, but if you like a slower, more deliberate story, you'll savor diving into these depths. Thanks to NetGalley and DAW for the opportunity to read and review this book!

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