Sea of Strangers continues Erica Cameron’s captivating Ryogan Chronicles, as Khya and company search for the legendary Kaisubeh.
Having travelled to Ryogo, former home of the exiled Miriseh, Khya and her companions seek to learn Varan’s secrets in hopes of defeating him and freeing Yorri. But navigating Ryogo isn’t so easy. Though their efforts will help the Ryogan as well as Itagami, they are viewed as enemies, and hunted as such. From the heights of Nentoado, to the desolate wilderness surrounding the Ryogan mages’ prison, this small group of warrior-mages must put to rights what Varan broke so long ago, and craft the weapons to kill those who cannot die before the Itagamin army invades. In a land that now fears magic, they face danger at every turn. They are aided by Lo’a and the nomadic hanaeuu, and by the historian Osshi, but how long can they truly count on their assistance, and how many will survive the trials?
Second in the Ryogan Chronicles, Sea of Strangers left me eager for part three. Unlike the first book, which mostly centred on Itagami and it’s immediate environs, this book ranged the length and breadth of Ryogo. From mountain heights to coastal lowlands, and everything in between, Khya and her companions are exposed to elements and conditions they could never have fathomed. Their first experience with snow was amusing! Each had a part to play, in keeping the group safe and alive. Without magic, they never would have made it through Nentoado. I appreciated that all these varied skills were needed. No one person was super powerful.
I liked Khya and Sanii better in this story. Khya evolved more, and Sanii got to open back up from the bitterness at having been placed in the yonin caste. Granted, I’m still not a big fan of Khya. She may be a strong mage, but so are most of the others, in their own gifts. She healed Varan’s damage to the Kaisuama, innovating with her brand of magic, true, but others may have been able to do so in a different way. I just don’t see her as being as special as she’s made out to be.
I really like Tsua, Chio, and Zonna. The three andofume of the group are the ones I feel should be leading. Centuries of experience give them greater maturity in my eyes. Everything is more a group effort though. Finding Varan’s cache, braving Nentoado, and the Kaisuama, tracking the Imaku rock, and breaking into the prison. All of it required the group as a whole.
I think Tessen is still my most favourite. Learning more about his basaku magic resonated with me. It’s not magic (I wish), and nothing is actually enhanced, but I suffer from hypersensitivity. I so grok things being too loud, and too bright, and touch being overwhelming. I can’t wear mittens, enclosed shoes, or long sleeved shirts because of that.
Ryogan society was just as fascinating to me as Itagamin. They seem so rigid, a much harsher society. Part is due to the war with Varan and the Miriseh several centuries ago, like the deep-set fear of magic. It seems, though, that Varan made a great deal of positive change when they set up Itagamin society. I’m not clear why they wouldn’t want to cultivate the born immortals, instead of isolating them. The Itagamins, though, don’t ostracise the ebet gender, and there seem to be more of them. Once again, a fuller explanation is lacking, but Ahta is a child ebet, which again suggests physical differences. The Ryogans view the birth of an ebet as proof the mother did something terrible, and is being punished by the Kaisubeh. The Ryogans also destroyed the area around Varan’s childhood village, and several centuries later, that village is still being punished. He did away with such things in Itagami. The transgressor(s) only pay the price. There seems more good than bad in what Varan created.
Lo’a’s people and culture were equally interesting. They practised a form of magic right under the Ryogans noses. They seemed a great deal like the Romany, if they travelled in feudal Japan. They are apart from Ryogan society, which tolerates them and occasionally oppresses them. I hope we get to see more of them in the next book, and also some of the other countries neighboring Ryogo. It seems like making allies would be a good idea!
I’m ready for the next one! If you are a fan of innovative magick, and stories influenced by Japanese lore, be sure to check out The Ryogan Chronicles!
***This book was reviewed via Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.