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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Review: Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison (No Mermaids)

Of Sea and Stone by Kate Avery Ellison

Secrets of Itlantis #1
Kate Avery Ellison
Publication Date: February 2, 2014
Publisher: Self Published
Reviewer: Sophia

All her life, clever Aemi has been a slave in the Village of the Rocks, a place where the sea and sky meet. She’s heard the stories about the fabled People of the Sea, a people who possess unimaginable technology who live below the waves in the dark, secret places of the ocean. But she never dreamed those stories were true.

When a ship emerges from the ocean and men burn her village, Aemi is captured, and enslaved below the waves in Itlantis, a world filled with ancient cities of glass and metal, floating gardens, and wondrous devices that seem to work magic. To make matters worse, her village nemesis, the stuck-up mayor’s son Nol, was captured with her, and they are made servants in the same household beneath the sea.

Desperate to be free, Aemi plots her escape, even going so far as to work with Nol. But the sea holds more secrets than she realizes, and escape might not be as simple as leaving...
Review copy provided by the author via Xpresso Book Tours

When I first read the synopsis and title, I thought the book would be about mermaids and sirens. I'm disappointed it's not.

Just kidding.

Of Sea and Stone is a delightfully pretty read – literally – and the pretty cover doesn't lie (though the synopsis partially lies). The underwater world of Itlantis is certainly a place I would love to see in person had it actually existed – it sounds so exotic and pretty from the way Ellison describes it.
The city of Celestrus was a collection of massive needle-like structures—gold and silver and transparent—that hovered in the middle of the dark blue water in a spiral, like a necklace around a floating woman’s throat, the points stretching down into the darkness below. Above the highest spindles of the city, sunlight danced in the water, making patterns atop of the city that flashed and glittered.
*happy sigh* Despite the fact this sounds like something straight out of Stargate Atlantis, I just love how imaginative Celestrus sounds.

Most of the names are beautiful too, especially the ones for females: Mella, Aemi, Lyssia, etc. Or maybe I just have a thing for names ending with i and a. That probably sounds really weird.

Ellison also writes the story from a very interesting perspective: Aemi, a slave in the Village of the Rocks. There's not many books out there written from a slave's view out there aside from perhaps historical fiction, and I found it intriguing to know what type of character Aemi would be, seeing as she would have much limitations compared to the usual characters I typically encounter in books.

I'm not terribly impressed with Aemi, of course. She's a great friend with the way she's willing to take the risk for Kit just so he doesn't get punished (and gets the punishment herself as a result). However, she seems very judgmental, especially when it comes to Nol.
This was all Nol’s doing; it had to be. I scanned the room but didn’t see him. How could he want me gone so badly that he was willing to go this far? Had he told Crakea to search my bunk?
Every bad thing that happens to Aemi after she is captured and placed yet again into servitude as an Indentured, Aemi thinks it's Nol's doing. I don't know what their history is, but I would love to know about their past and Aemi's past. Ellison vaguely mentions a scene with Aemi's mother as a child, but there's nothing much afterward. While the lack of Aemi's history doesn't impact the rest of the story or plot as a whole, I think I'll understand Aemi's seemingly irrational hatred for Nol much better. Plus, it makes Aemi more of a round character rather than a flat character.

I do love Aemi's relationships and interactions with the other characters, especially with Tob – they just click well together straight from the start and Aemi's interactions with the others go smoothly... for the most part.
“I’m a food scholar, studying the three D’s of food. And you like teaching people, don’t you? Well, teach me.”
“The three D’s?”
“Delectability, delightfulness, and danger. Right now, my hunch is that these tarts need more danger. I’m thinking a drop of venom from the scorpionfish to give them a little sting.”
I grimaced. “Remind me to never eat anything you cook once you’re a kill cook.”
“Shock cook!” Tob said. “No one gets killed. Except the fish.”
The book, however, doesn't exactly go in tune with the synopsis. Not really.

Let me rephrase that before anyone gets an aneurysm: The book goes in tune with the synopsis. However, the part where Nol and Aemi work together to escape from the hands of the Itlanteans doesn't seem to be emphasized as much. There's this entire chunk of the book from Aemi's capture to Nol finding out her plan that Aemi isn't working with anyone – she's working on her own.
“I know you want to escape.”
“What?” I said, halting with one hand on the door.
“I know you want to,” he repeated. “You study the maps. You ask questions about ships, about the surface. You want to go back.” He paused. “I believe you’ll do it. You’re clever and you always seem to get what you want. Well, when you go, I want to go with you.”
She gets captured at Chapter 7, approximately 18% of the book. Nol doesn't find out – or rather, become suspicious and decides to confront her – about her plan until 65% of the book and literally tells her, "So... you're going to escape, huh? Take me with you!"
“Careful,” he said softly. “Don’t get trampled. I need you if we’re going to escape.”
Pfft. It sounds like he's taking advantage of the situation. Smart and sly there little guy, but taking advantage of the situation and helping out a teeny weeny bit – "Hey! Are you sure going to this place is a good idea?" and "Here's a suit that will protect you when you actually escape." – wasn't exactly part of the description. View Spoiler »

Character problems and lack of character history – notice I said character history and not Itlantis history – aside, Ellison's first book in her newest series is a book that shows plenty of promise, although the perspective may be a little different in the sequel. It'll be interesting to see precisely how the rest of the series will play out and what other secrets Itlantis holds under the sea.

4.5 Owls

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Sophia is the owner and founder of Bookwyrming Thoughts, but also found on various parts of the internet. She's a 19-year-old communications major who has weird humor and doesn't fit the Asian stereotype (maybe a little). Books, chocolate, technology, and music are among some of her favorite things. For more of her work, visit her personal website.