cover image The Forever Sea

The Forever Sea

Joshua Phillip Johnson. DAW, $27 (496p) ISBN 978-0-7564-1703-1

Johnson debuts with a captivating secondary-world eco-fantasy that follows hearthfire keeper Kindred as she sails the Forever Sea, a vast ocean of prairie whose grasses hide both wonder and danger. When political conflict in Arcadia, a magical enclave within the Sea, forces the crew of The Errant to flee Arcadia, Kindred manipulates the crew to suit her own goal: seeking out the fabled, pirate base of Once-City in hopes of finding clues about her grandmother’s disappearance. But the denizens of Once-City prove more complex and more dangerous than Kindred and the crew expected, and they soon become embroiled in a tangled political web. Johnson’s worldbuilding is highly original, but the story occasionally veers a little too far toward the conceptual at the expense of plot. Lush descriptions of plant life abound, which some readers may find slows the narrative—but that slower pace makes for relaxing reading and, when combined with the exceptional protagonist and themes of embracing the unknown, calls to mind Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series. With a good balance of grit and tenderness, this entertaining story makes a nice addition to the growing hopepunk subgenre.[em] Agent: Alexander Cochran, C+W Agency. (Jan.) [/em]