Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sea Change by S.M. Wheeler

Lilly is born to wealthy parents who reject her due a birth defect.  Alone and unloved, she flees to the beach that surrounds her house and there discovers her only friend, the kraken, Octavius.  From Octavius, she learns the meaning of friendship and love.

When Octavius is captured, Lilly sets forth on a quest to save him.  But this is not a magical fairy tale; it is instead a dark, haunting tale reminiscent of the bleakest of the Grimm fairy tales.  Lilly discovers who has Octavius; a circus master.  He agrees to set him free if she can bring him a magical coat of illusions.  This starts a chain of impossible tasks and an introduction to a myriad of strange folks.  There is the tailor, who wants the body of her undead husband who was captured by a witch.  The witch has been tricked of her skin, and wants it back.  It is held by two bandits. Lilly, or Lyle as she becomes known as on the trail, lives with the bandits as their servant, never sure which act or look might send them into a murderous rage.

But there are compensations also.  Lilly becomes strong with all the physical labor.  She learns who to trust and who never to trust.  She befriends an individual named Horace who has never known friendship before.  When she completes her quest, she learns the hardest lesson of all.  Sometimes even your best does not guarantee a happy ending.

S.M. Wheeler has written an amazing debut novel.  The reader will fall in love on the first page with the languorous, haunting language.  Lilly/Lyle is a character that one cannot help but cheer for as she/he navigates the various difficulties it takes to complete her quest.  There are magical beings; witches, animals turned into humans, automata soldiers, kraken who are more human than the humans who capture it.  This is one of the best fantasy novels of 2013; a true tour-de-force.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

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