The Kraken Sea – E. Catherine Tobler

The Kraken Sea by Catherine E. Tobler

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Jackson is different from the other children at the foundling hospital. Scales sometimes cover his arms. Tentacles coil just below his skin. Despite this Jackson tries to fit in with the other children. He tries to be normal for Sister Jerome Grace and the priests. But when a woman asks for a boy like him, all that changes. His name is pinned to his jacket and an orphan train whisks him across the country to Macquarie’s.

At Macquarie’s, Jackson finds a home unlike any he could have imagined. The bronze lions outside the doors eat whomever they deem unfit to enter, the hallways and rooms shift and change at will, and Cressida – the woman who adopted him – assures him he no longer has to hide what he is. But new freedoms hide dark secrets. There are territories, allegiances, and a kraken in the basement that eats shadows.

As Jackson learns more about the new world he’s living in and about who he is, he has to decide who he will stand with: Cressida, the woman who gave him a home and a purpose, or Mae, the black-eyed lion tamer with a past as enigmatic as his own. The Kraken Sea is a fast paced adventure full of mystery, Fates, and writhing tentacles just below the surface, and in the middle of it all is a boy searching for himself.

My rating: 2.5 Stars

My Review:

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Kraken Sea is a short book, a novella, that I would describe as a fantasy coming-of-age story.

Jackson is an orphan who gets adopted by a mysterious woman called The Widow. He’s drawn from his average, if miserable, life at the orphanage, and is chucked into one full of magical creatures, and unspoken rules which, when broken, mean death or serious bodily harm. There’s a steep learning curve as Jackson struggles to understand who and what he is, and how he fits into the grand scheme of things.

A few things I liked about this book: I love the idea of a magical world enmeshed with the ordinary human one. One that only some humans are privy to. One where anyone you see, could in fact just be in human form, but certainly inhuman.

I love the idea of this woman, Cressida, gathering these inhuman people and mystical creatures, and giving them a home. I even love the idea that she may have nefarious intentions for this.

A few things that bothered me: The book needs more editing, and quite a bit of it. There were sentence fragments, misused words, and typos that slipped past the spell checker.  Characterization, character development, pacing, and the plot need tweaking. There were a few formatting issues as well, such as breaks in the story that weren’t clearly noted.

The author used some intense imagery, and that was both a boon and a detriment to the story. There were beautiful lines like this, “These human-like shapes peeled away from clotted darkness; Jackson was certain if he was close enough, he would have heard a wet puckering kiss as they separated from the black.”

And then there was a clumsy descriptions of a mirror that I had to take a second to realize was indeed a mirror, and not some magical new thing I needed to pay attention to. Also, there was a tendency for the writing to get too abstract during every intense scene, from Jackson’s heady moments with Mae, to brawls with the neighborhood boys.

Overall, I like the book, but I think it could almost be considered a work in progress. It needs a good polish.

Type of Readers Suited for: Readers who want something quick and easy.

Additional notes: The cover art is beautiful.

 

The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The book that broke my heart in late November. It took three months to read it. A mere fifty pages remained for the longest time because I knew what was going to happen, I knew who was going to die. The narrator was Death, and he told me who would die far before I reached the end, and I wanted to put off the deaths of those characters as long as I possibly could. I finally finished it November 3oth.

It’s a brilliantly written book. Death is a sympathetic figure who claims to be “haunted by humans,” and the characters are a blend of human gift and human flaw. The tone is dark, and the prose itself is conversational. Beyond emotional torment, it’s an easy read. My favorite characters are predictably Leisel Meminger, Hans Hubermann, and Rudy Steiner.