Review & Blog Tour & Giveaway: Sea of Strangers - Erica Cameron

Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron
Series: The Ryogan Chronicles #2
My rating: {★★★★★}

YA Fantasy
Published December 5th 2017 by Entangled: Teen

Source: ARC received from Entangled
Know your enemy if you want to survive…

The only way for Khya to get her brother back alive is to kill Varan—the immortal ruler who can’t be killed. But not even Varan knew what he was doing when he perverted magic and humanity to become immortal.

Khya’s leading her group of friends and rebels into the mountains that hold Varan’s secrets, but if risking all their lives is going to be worth it, she has to give up everything else—breaking the spell that holds her brother captive and jeopardizing her deepening relationship with Tessen, the boy who has been by turns her rival and refuge since her brother disappeared. Immortality itself might be her only answer, but if that’s where Khya has to go, she can’t ask Tessen or her friends to follow.

**Any quotes used are from an advanced readers copy and may not be in the final publication**
“What is a life when it is given in protection of family?”
“The most precious thing in the world. Don’t pretend it’s worth nothing.”
“True, and it is my gift to give.”

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Sea of Strangers from Entangled and since reading Island of Exiles earlier this year, this book was one of my most anticipated releases and I'm happy to report that it did not disappoint me in any way.

There is so much attention to detail which I really appreciate that in a book and especially in a YA book. Not only this but the plot just flows so instinctively and never feels forced. The characters are faced with situations and frustrations that make so much sense and there's absolutely no deus ex machina which again, I can definitely appreciate!

World building, now let you tell me about this world building! I have to spend a moment here fan-girling about the blissful world building in this series: It's complex, diverse in so many ways and oh-so-amazing for this reader! There's culture, politics, language and so many layers and textures to everything that it's created a rich and organic experience. There's a 'Cast of Characters' in the beginning of book two which can help reacquaint you with the people of the world but I have to say that I was so glad that I re-read Island of Exiles before jumping in to this book because the plot picks up exactly where the last book left off and there's little to no recapping. These definitely cannot be read as standalones.

The character development in this series is almost on par with the world building and I loved seeing the main character, Khya grow throughout these books. For those of you that don't know, Khya is a Desosa Mage which means she can manipulate energy and in her particular case she is a fykina ward mage -able to shield herself and others from both magic and the physical world. She has spent a lot of her life with a single goal in mind and after facing a huge betrayal at the hands of those she trusted the most, her life has been a riot of turmoil ever since. Seeing her face her dilemmas and tackle the complications that life is stacking up against her is heartening and, as with the first book I couldn't help but be invested in this story. She's flawed and yet so compelling.

Speaking of compelling characters, Tessen is Khya's lifelong rival and was always one step ahead of her at getting the promotions that she so desperately was working towards and desired. Tessen is a Basaku mage which means that all five of his senses are enhanced and he can also sense the subtle changes in the desosa (the ambient magical energy of the world). I love his relationship with Khya and his pragmatic approach to life. He is a soothing calm to Khya's fiery nature and it's so nice to see a good strong male character that is also happy to be in the background and not taking the lead or forcing his alpha-ness into a situation.

It's also refreshing to have an entire series built on the compelling ties of family and of responsibility, and not just on that of romance. The romance is wonderful, don't get me wrong - it is profound and complex and subtle and is synergistic to the plot while never BEING the plot. Erica has written beautiful relationships full of sizzling chemistry and sincerity.

I also need to specifically address the diversity in these books - the diversity is amazing and what I love about it is that it is so raw and genuine without ever being forced upon the reader that 'this book is diverse'. It's not there for the sake of being diverse - it just IS. There's diversity of culture, of skin colour, of gender (there's even a third gender!!!), of sexuality (including asexuality which I've never seen featured before in a YA book/series).

There's plenty of new characters and culture in this installment and while the plot tended to move a little slower in this middle book of the trilogy I was never bored or frustrated. I think the balance between the shifting of characters into their positions for the final book and the introduction of this part of the world was a good one and there was still plenty of action sequences detailing the Itagamin's proficiency both in their magical abilities and military like training.

The only major problem that I had with the book was that CLIFFHANGER!!!!!!! Between the heartrending casualties of this book, further plot twists and revelations I'm definitely eager for the next book. Write fast please Miss Cameron!

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my annoyingly long life, it’s that you can only do what you’re capable of doing.”
“I know that.” Everyone does. What else can anyone do?
Tsua looks up from the whetstone, amusement in her eyes. “No, you don’t. Not yet. I know it sounds like an obvious lesson, but it took me a very long time to learn it. You’ve only just begun, child.”

Erica Cameron is the author of books for young adults including the Ryogan Chronicles, the Assassins duology, and The Dream War Saga. She also co-authored the Laguna Tides novels with Lani Woodland. An advocate for asexuality and emotional abuse awareness, Erica has also worked with teens at a residential rehabilitation facility in her hometown of Fort Lauderdale.

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Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary
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Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween
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Buzz Books 2016: Young Adult Fall/Winter
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