Tuesday, August 26, 2008

“Seaborn” by Chris Howard

A world deep under the sea, a kingdom that has endured centuries—without the modern world knowing it exists. Those who dwell there are the Seaborn.

Kassandra: granddaughter of the King of the Seaborn, she has spent her life in exile on the surface. Though still learning to control her unique powers, she's ready to declare war on her murderous grandfather…

Corina: a California college student who loves to scuba dive, her mind and body have beem brutally taken over by an ancient Seaborn sorcerer—and she must fight to prevent his complete possession of her very being…

Aleximor: imprisoned 400 years ago by the Seaborn royalty, the sorcerer is now intent on a revenge that threatens to consume both young women and the world of the Seaborn.
Seaborn is the debut fantasy novel from author Chris Howard and I believe the first in a proposed series. For a first novel it is chock full of new and interesting ideas, however the execution left me unsatisfied from a number of perspectives.

Howard introduces us to his main characters through alternating POV’s, chapter to chapter. The first chapter begins with Kassandra. The narrative is crisp and evocative. It paints a fey mood, intriguing us about Kassandra’s nature without enlightening us. Drawing us in to learn more.
The water followed her home from the library, water in the air slipping over her skin as if afraid to touch her without permission. The sound of water played in her ears—a child’s laughter splashing, a creek burbling a mile down Atlantic Avenue—and the soft rain skipped in her footprints.
The second chapter features Corina where she reflects on her recent breakup with her boyfriend and is introspective about a tragic event in her life. In other words, personal details that effectively brings her character to life.

For me these initial chapters established some expectations. I loved the style and feel of the first chapter but it was quickly abandoned in place of more prosaic straight forward narrative. Corina’s introduction suggested the promise of a character driven story. However, we learn as much about Corina in this chapter as in the combined remaining chapters. Her physical body is usurped by the Seaborn sorceror Aleximor and her inner struggle and helplessness could have provided exceptional fodder for character enlightenment. For example, Stephenie Meyer built an entire novel around the concept in the recent The Host. Here Corina is relegated to a sidekick character once taken over by Aleximor.

Other key characters also receive only half-hearted efforts including her sisters, father and other family members. I found it difficult to care about them. Kassandra, as the wreath bearer is motivated and influenced by the multiple personalities embedded in her psyche. Who is the real Kassandra? Aleximor is also fairly one-dimensional, primarily motivated by revenge and old hatreds.

As epic fantasy Seaborn is imaginative and flush with mythological detail. The ocean dwelling Seaborn culture is fascinating. The action sequences well visualized. But I found it curious that Howard placed the story against a contemporary setting. It takes a fairly large suspension of disbelief to accept that the Seaborn could hide so effectively from modern technology given their significant presence and activities. These issues are never addressed. Set against a less technological age – perhaps more believable. In fact, the contemporary world stage used for the surface dwelling characters plays little meaningful role in the larger plot of Seaborn power and politics other then as a backdrop.

Nevertheless this is a fresh and entertaining read and I fully expect we will be hearing more from Chris Howard in the future. A sequel Sea Throne is expected out next year.

Read the first four chapters.

Listen to the first chapter as read by the author.


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