A Julia Prerelease Review: The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Having long wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the merfolk’s fortress. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: Say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.

Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from the divine Loki. But such deals are never straightforward, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.

Being an avid reader of the Fantasy genre myself, The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember had me intrigued as soon as I laid eyes on it. I find mermaids to be one of the most fascinating mythical creatures and yet I can hardly recall any Fantasy novels in which they play more than a supporting role. So, since the protagonist in this one is in fact a mermaid, I was really hoping that the author would grant a closer look into the society, customs and lifestyle of the merfolk. And thankfully I was not disappointed in the least!

The novel features a close-knit community of merfolk living inside a glacier far up in the frozen North with strict societal rules and traditions. As a reader you get to experience their way of life through the eyes of young Ersel from whose first-person perspective the story is told. World and lore building are one of the key aspects of Fantasy writing and I was immediately drawn in by the loving details the author used to describe how the merfolk lived and their society worked. The people of the sea really take the centre stage here and we are handed only small pieces of information on what the lives of humans are like in this world. I also very much enjoyed how the merfolk’s way of life was so closely entwined with the harsh and cold environment they lived in. The author did a good job in depicting the icy landscape and some of its inhabitants (most prominently a pod of beluga whales). A nice touch of magic and Norse mythology is added as well.

The novel features a varied cast of characters with the mermaid Ersel as its main protagonist. She does not want to lead the life dictated to her by the community’s traditions and laws but is too scared and timid to openly oppose them at first. A focus of the story lies on her personal development as she is repeatedly faced with new experiences and difficult decisions that impact her own future as well as others’.  The most profound of said experiences being when she meets Ragna, a fierce young human woman bent on survival and revenge. Ragna acts in many ways as a mirror for Ersel: They both have dreams and goals they want to achieve but unlike her Ragna has the courage and will to actively work towards and fight for them. At the same time Ersel comes to Ragna’s aid and becomes the friend and support the human girl desperately needs. The relationship that starts to blossom from this encounter was a delight to witness and I found myself rooting for them to succeed in their ambitions as well as their growing feelings for each other. Their story is one of self-discovery, compassion, determination and sacrifices.

Other types of relationships are explored as well, especially the one between Ersel and her childhood friend Havamal with whom she used to share a strong bond before he decided on a different path in life than the one they had once dreamed of together. And then there is of course Ersel’s deal with the infamous trickster god himself who, while being a divine entity, displays some rather human-like traits as well. I also quite enjoyed the magical aspects of this part of the story. 

Since this is a Young Adult novel the sex scenes are not described in detail but they are still teased enough to let the imagination run wild.

I had a great time reading this novel and enjoyed learning about the fascinating world the author had created. The characters, their motivations and interactions were very engaging as well. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from this author. 

The intricate cover design by CB Messer is what drew me to this novel in the first place. It is probably one of the most beautiful book covers I have ever seen. The art and colour choices are truly lovely. It immediately invokes a sense of ancient legends and fairy tales.

Sales Links:  Duet, an imprint of Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages

Published May 4, 2017

by Interlude Press

ISBN: 978-1-945053-34-4

Edition Language: English

An Aurora YA Review: The Sun Dragon by Annabelle Jay

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Sun DragonDragons once roamed the skies, as common as our modern-day airplanes but much more beautiful in their gliding, soaring thermal choreography. Until King Roland and his gold-greedy men defeated them.

Years later King Roland reveals that not only did he let the dragons live, but he turned them into humans so that they could enter the population and breed him an army. Allanah, a sophomore in high school, saves her know-it-all friend Victoria from exactly this fate with magical powers she never knew she had. Allanah’s first high school crush, Jason, reveals that he’s been sent by a secret society of wizards to bring Allanah and Victoria to the Council to have their magical abilities tested by The Egg. Everyone, including Allanah, is shocked by what she produces: the world’s first light dragon.

Allanah must save her best friend and all of the rest of the dragons from Roland’s evil plan, but when she meets the beautiful Dena, a member of the native forest-dwelling Igreefee camp, she must wrestle between her feelings for her new wizard crush, Cormac, and her attraction to Dena.

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book. The biggest thing that I really loved was the characterization of every single character. While main characters in books, and especially YA books, almost always have full and fleshed out characterization, but sometimes the side characters don’t necessarily get the same treatment. In this book, that is not a problem at all. In fact, I found myself connecting more with Victoria than with Allanah. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Allanah too! But my connection with Victoria just showed me that the author really took the time to develop every single character, and not just the protagonist. In fantasy books, and especially modern fantasies like this one, I find that characterization is what keeps the stories grounded in reality and makes it so the audience can still connect with a story that may be very fantastical. In this book, I think the author did a wonderful job with that.
Now, to the actual plot of the book, which overall I really liked. I will say that I had some small problems with the beginning of the book. I found that there was a lot of suspension of disbelief in the first few chapters, and the very first chapter in particular. There were little things that seemed slightly unrealistic to me, and a lot had to be taken on faith.
However, by the end of the book, I had pretty much forgotten about the concerns I had at the beginning which, to me, just showed that the story and characters pulled me in and brought it back. I would say that the book had really picked up by about halfway through chapter two at the very latest, and there weren’t really any other lapses after that, so I didn’t have a huge problem with taking some things at the author’s word toward the beginning.
Overall, I really enjoyed the book, I found it to be a unique idea with very colorful characters no matter how minor they may have been. The author did an especially good job of grounding everything fictional in the modern reality that the book is set in.
Cover art .I really liked the cover for this book. It seems really soft and appealing, in a way that is really nice to me. Obviously we can see the connection to the story, and as you actually read the book you can gather even more information and see some foreshadowing in the cover. The thing I enjoy the most about the cover is the color palette. I think everything works together really well. I really liked this cover and definitely think that its aesthetic would appeal to a lot of people.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | ARe |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages
Published January 29th 2016 by Harmony Ink Press (first published January 28th 2016)
ISBN 1634763416 (ISBN13: 9781634763417)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesThe Sun Dragon #1