cover image A Jewel Bright Sea: Mage and Empire, Book 1

A Jewel Bright Sea: Mage and Empire, Book 1

Claire O’Dell. Rebel Base, $15.95 trade paper (246p) ISBN 978-1-63573-081-4

The superior creativity and subtlety O’Dell displayed in her Janet Watson Chronicles aren’t evident in this strictly by-the-numbers romantic fantasy series launch. Bonded servant Anna Zhdanov hopes to gain her freedom from her master, Lord Brun, by retrieving a stolen jewel whose special powers enabled the emperor to conduct wars that expanded his territory. Posing as a noblewoman, Anna uses magic to follow the trail of the thief, Aldo Sarrész, for months; just as she hits a dead end, Anna and her best friend, Maté, are captured by a de rigueur hunky pirate, Andreas Koszenmarc, who, of course, turns out to be a nobleman disowned by his father. Romance fans will find what follows predictable: Anna and Andreas end up as allies searching for the missing gem, encounter danger in the form of other pirates (who are actually evil), and find themselves increasingly attracted to each other. Superficial worldbuilding and characterization won’t encourage readers to seek out book two. (Sept.)