Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong

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The basics

Title: Sea of Shadows

Author:

Series: Age of Legends #1

- Sea of Shadows (April 2014)
- Empire of Night (April 2015)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Let it be known that Katie @ I Teach YA is a wonderful person.

in short

Ashyn and Moria are twins with super-special powers.  They can ease the spirits of the dead and keep evil spirits at bay, respectively.  They use these powers once a year when they trek into the nearby Forest of the Dead to retrieve the bodies of exiled criminals.  But on Ashyn’s first solo mission, something goes terribly wrong.  The retrieval crew goes missing, most likely murdered by some unseen mythical force.  She is accompanied back to town by an exiled criminal who has survived the winter in the Forest.  Unfortunately, while interning the young criminal in the dungeons below the town, the residents are murdered by a group of evil spirits.  Reanimated, these “death stalkers” decimate the remaining residents of Edgewood including the girls’ father.  Separated, Ashyn leaves to search out her sister with a small party of remaining villagers.  A young survivor warns Ashyn that she has seem Moria hauled off by men on horseback.  Moria follows an apparition of her sister into the forest only to find Gavril, the lone survivor of Edgewood’s guard.  The two also head out through the Wastes on the heels of Ashyn and her party.  While traveling through the lava field, both groups encounter strange mythical beings (Death Worms, Thunderhawks) and barely survive.  They finally make their way to the village of Fairview only to realize that it too is under the control of some sort of sorcery.  The girls, now back together, escape with the task of delivering a missive to the emperor in the imperial city.  When they arrive, the welcome is not warm but they are finally given an audience with the emperor.  He receives the message and realizes that this is an invitation to war.  Fun twist, turns out Gavril’s father, a former marshal for the emperor and alleged sorcerer is behind the Shadow Stalkers and has plans to take down the empire.

what went down

  • Ashyn is the Seeker.  She is tasked, once a year, with finding the bodies of dead exiles in the Forest of the Dead and putting their souls at rest.
  • Moria, her twin sister, is Keeper.  Her duty is to keep malicious spirits at bay.
  • On her 1st solo trip into the forest, everything seems to go awry right from the start.  Tova, her bond-beast and a Hound of the Immortals, is injured during the party’s initial trek into the forest.  He is left to be carried back to the town.  Later, several more in the party go missing as Ashyn starts the rituals to put the spirits at ease.
  • Ashyn is then “kidnapped” by a young exile, Ronan, and his uncle to ensure that they will be allowed to escape the forest (the customary reward for lasting the entire winter in the harsh conditions).  But before they can leverage Ashyn as collateral for their escape, a blood-thirsty beast ravages the search party’s camp and kills Ronan’s uncle.
  • Ashyn and Ronan return to the town of Edgewood after the debacle in the forest (which Ashyn blames herself and her new skills for).  Upon their return, Ronan is relegated to the dungeons until they can sort out his reward for surviving the forest.
  • Moria and Ashyn visit him in the cells but Moria leaves to check some noises from above.  She finds that the entire town has been massacred!
  • When she arrives at her home, her father is laying in his bed, but he also has been murdered and replaced by a vengeful spirit in the form of a Shadow Stalker.  Moria is almost bested but manages to kill her father.
  • When leaving the house, she catches a glimpse of her sister, Ashyn, and follows the apparition into the Forest of the Dead.
  • Meanwhile, Ashyn and Ronan escape the barracks.  They find no one alive but two eldery residents, a guard and a young girl, Wenda.  Wenda claims to have seen Moira and the children of the village carried off by bandits on horseback.   The party heads off across the Wastes to find her sister.
  • Moria does not find her sister in the forest.  She does, however, find a lone survivor from the party that left earlier to retrieve those bodies in the ill fated Seeker mission headed by Ashyn.  Gavril is a guard who came to Edgewood after the exile of his father to the woods (the former marshal was accused of sorcery).
  • The two head back into town to retrieve supplies and find a note from Ashyn alerting them to her travels.  They make off in the same direction.
  • Ashyn’s party is not fast.  The elderly members of the party and the young girl are slowing them down.  Ronan suggest the two of them go ahead but this is stifled when Wenda accuses the lone guard of having inappropriate contact.
  • They lose some of their party to a freak Death Worm attack in the middle of the night (it spits acid).
  • Finally Ronan, Ashyn and Wenda arrive in Fairview to a warm yet weird welcome.  They are kept under guard in a small house.  Ashyn and Ronan decide to escape through the roof but Wenda (who has been possessed from the start) decides this is a bad idea and attacks them.
  • Gavril and Moria make good time crossing the Wastes but are sidelined when a mythical Thunderhawk attacks their camp.  The two are able to finally take it down but not before the beast injures both Gavril and Moria’s bond-beast, a wildcat named Daigo.  Gavril is able to heal many of Daigo’s wounds using sorcery (a fact that he is very unwilling to admit to Moria).
  • Moria meets up with her sister once they reach Fairview.  Here they are given an ultimatum: take a missive to the emperor in the imperial city or the children of Edgewood (who are being held captive in Fairview) will perish.
  • The twins set off with Ronan and Gavril as their escorts.  They stay off the main roads but are still intercepted by a band of mercenaries who kidnap Ashyn and plan to go back for Moria (to add to the harem of a neighboring king).  Ashyn escapes with the helped of a deformed, casteless girl.  In thanks, Ashyn gifts her with a blade.
  • Once they reach the outskirts of the imperial city, Ronan departs (to find his brother and sister) but not before kissing Ashyn and letting her know he would like to see her again.

how did it end?

The three remaining travelers enter the city, greeted by the guards who know Gavril (he is a former resident as his father was the head marshal before being exiled in disgrace).  There they request an audience with the emperor but are denied.  Finally, Ashyn negotiates a meeting with the Keeper and Seeker of the city.  Ellyn and Thea, the imperial twins, are not happy to see their protégés.  They fear the retribution of the ancestral spirits for their being too much power in one location.  Fortunately for Ashyn and Moria, Tyrus, the emperor’s bastard son steps in to smooth out the conflict.  Turns out the emperor is not even within city limits and Tyrus send guards to retrieve him.  The girls are escorted to their quarters to await his arrival.  Ashyn settles in but Moria is restless and heads off to the library to research the mysterious seal found on the letter they are tasked with delivering to the emperor.  She meets Gavril on her way and he informs her that he will be leaving before the emperor arrives.  He fears that his presence will not be looked on too kindly being as his father had once been exiled from this very city.  Moria convinces him to stay a while longer and continues on to the library.  There she meet a very old librarian who recognizes the seal as the secondary seal of the Kitsune family, Gavril’s family and more specifically, his dead father!  Moria races back to Gavril’s quarters where she finds him packing to leave.  The two exchange both verbal and physical blows and Gavril claims that he has mortally injured Daigo.  Moria runs to Daigo’s aid only to find that he is unharmed.  This has given Gavril the time he needs to escape.  Moria is furious (and possibly a little heartbroken) but there is no time to revel in her emotions because the emperor has returned to court.  The girls are given an audience where they explained all that has happened on their journey including the improbable mythological creatures they have come up against, the decimation of their village and the thugs who now hold ransom over Fairview and the children of Edgewood.  The emperor hears them out, reading the missive from Marshal Kitsune.  They will try to rescue the children of Edgewood but the reality is that this means war!

anything else

Keeper – keeps evil spirits at bay (Moria)
Seeker – seeks out bodies to bury and puts their spirits to rest (Ashyn)
Bond-beast – special animal helper (possibly containing ancestral spirits of past warriors).  The Keeper is gifted a wildcat and the Seeker bonds with a hound
The Wastes – massive lava fields between Edgewood and the Imperial City
The Forest of the Dead – deadly woodland, home to many ancestral spirits, place of exile for many criminals, at the edge of Edgewood
Shadow Stalker – mythical being, dead bodies inhabited by malevolent spirits
Death Worms – giant worms that spit acid
Thunderhawk – giant colorful hawk that claps its wings like thunder and shoots lightening out of its eyes

Comments:

  • jazmine mills says:

    thanks for posting this because it helped me a lot on my homework and also you are a very good writer amber if you wrote this.

  • Whitney says:

    So I know it’s random but it’s been a while since I read this and I just can’t remember why the mother killed herself. If you could help me refresh my memory that would be great! I know it’s not super important but in the second book it’s mentioned again and I could remember the details. Thank you! This was a great refresher.

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