Sea of Shadows

416p. ebook available. HarperCollins/Harper. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062071248.
Gr 9 Up—Twins are exceedingly rare and often destined for brutal death in the Empire. Luckily, 17-year-old Moria and Ashyn have sacred powers and are revered instead. Fierce, knife-wielding Moria, along with the help of her spirit beast (a large catlike creature named Daigo), is the "Keeper"—guardian of the village of Edgewood. Quiet and peaceful Ashyn, with her mystical canine Tova, assists the spirits of the dead in her role as "Seeker." The girls are still in training when Edgewood is invaded by an army of the undead. They get separated, leaving Moria paired with Gavril (a surly but attractive young guard) and Ashyn with Ronan (a prisoner sentenced to exile in the bordering Forest of the Dead). The vicious zombielike shadow stalkers kill nearly every adult in the village, turning them into undead creatures like themselves—including the sisters' father. As Ashyn and Moira continue their separate but long and dangerous treks through "the Wastes" to the nearest village of Fairview, their journeys are wrought with terrifying and legendary beasts; their loyalties are constantly tested. The first book in a series, Armstrong's tale offers a fascinating mythical world filled with danger, monsters, and betrayal at every turn. The bulk of the narrative includes quests and emerging relationships—the most exciting of which is that between Moria and Gavril. But the more subtly developed relationships—such as the bond between the sisters and the relationship they share with their respective spirit animals—are just as intriguing. Fantasy fans will enjoy the complex world but the ending may feel too abrupt considering the time spent reading this long tale.—Tara Kehoe, New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton
Every year, the Seeker, currently teen Ashyn, enters the Forest of the Dead to quiet damned spirits. The Keeper, Ashyn's twin Moria, remains in the village as a protector. But things go terribly awry, and the sisters are forced to travel across the Wastes to save their kingdom from the undead. Armstrong's elaborate world is populated with complex characters in this series-opener.

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