Sea by Sarah Driver
The Huntress series. Egmont, 2017. ISBN 9781405284677
(Age: 9-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Fantasy, Adventure stories, Sailing Ships, Tribes and tribal systems, Families.
We rove! We rove to trade, to meet, for the restlessness in our bones; we rove at one with the sea!
The intricately designed, foil embossed cover with scrolling waves and shiny fish encircling the title, the detailed map of the island kingdom of Trianukka and the cutaway of the sailing ship Huntress entice the reader into Sarah Driver's lyrical fantasy adventure. Spirited hero Mouse lives aboard The Huntress with her one-eyed grandma Wren, the ship's captain and her younger brother Sparrow. Their tribe worship the majestic whales who protect them and come when summoned by Sparrow's singing to help defeat the bloodthirsty attacks from the flying terrodyls. They are on a voyage to the great Tribe-Meet, and Mouse, who celebrates her thirteenth moon, is her grandma's apprentice training to take over as Captain of the Huntress. Their father, Da has disappeared and he has left Mouse with a special quest to find the sea opals and restore them.
This is a complex and exciting story, set in an icy bleak world with scary undersea creatures, and dangerous attacks from the Fangtooth Tribe and their polar dogs. Trouble and danger ramp up when Grandma Wren unfortunately allows Stag, a long-lost tribe member to rejoin their crew. Mouse's resilience and courage is repeatedly tested as the crew face serious threats from all sides.
Sarah Driver's debut novel is beautifully crafted with fast-paced narrative, elemental forces driving their journey, good and evil fantastical creatures and lyrical music her brother sings to the whales. Her creative language is delightful to read: Mouse's heart skip-skitters when she's in danger but she keeps her spine arrow-straight and she is not afraid to face down a land-lurker with iron-hard eyes. There are fun visual details added throughout, shadowy whales, black merwraiths diving, moon-sparks twinkling and terrodyl beasts soaring.
Sea is the first in The Huntress trilogy and readers who enjoy a challenging fantasy adventure will look forward to Sky.