The Midnight Sea
I got this book as part of a free giveaway, and approached it with the the trepidation one always does in these situations. As usual, 50-75% of the books I got in the giveaway were not really worth reading, but a couple of them stood out, with “The Midnight Sea” being the most standout of the bunch.
The setting is familiar yet unfamiliar for epic fantasy: the action takes place in the Persian Empire during the time of Alexander the Great. But rather than being exoticized–okay, maybe it is exoticized a little, but in the way of all epic fantasy–or cast as the enemy, the Persian Empire is home to the main character, and Alexander’s Macedonia is a threatening outside aggressor.
All is not as it initially seems, however, and our heroine Nazafareen has to reconsider everything she believes and where her loyalties lie…
“The Midnight Sea” is a fast-moving, high-action kind of epic fantasy, but not at the breathless pace of so many books of its ilk, which seem to careen from fight scene to fight scene without pausing to consider whether all this fighting is a good idea. This book is light compared with many of the dense epics the genre is known for, but it’s still weighty enough to satisfy true epic fantasy fanatics such as myself, with tantalizing hints at more backstory yet to come. Nazafareen is one of those feisty heroines who so often become irritating cliches, but in her case the feistiness is balanced out by some thought and some three-dimensional depth. She’s a girl/woman warrior in a society where such a thing is possible but women are still not completely equal citizens, which adds some interest to her story, and her training story shows her struggling realistically, like any trainee, without dwelling constantly on her physical inabilities compared to the men around her, because in fact she becomes extremely competent.
The magic the characters have access to is only touched upon in this book, but with suggestions that it will be developed later in the series. There’s a big reveal about it towards the end of the book that I don’t want to give away here, but it brings up a lot of interesting questions about ethics that are only partially resolved here, so I look forward to seeing how the author resolves them in later books in the series. Overall, an enjoyable and well-done epic fantasy with a sympathetic heroine that should appeal to adult and YA readers alike.