Isles of storm and sorrow: Viper by Bex Hogan
Orion Children's Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781510105836.
Recommended for mature readers aged 16+. Seventeen-year-old Marianne is the daughter of the Viper - a sadistic and powerful Sea Captain of the King's protective fleet. Surrounded by a crew of murderers and psychopaths, Marianne is expected to become just like her father, but she harbours a reticence that defies her heritage and her father's cold-hearted purpose. With multiple murders, violence and the intense distrust within this band of powerful misfits, Marianne is set on a course that is brutal and disquieting. Almost no crew members are worthy of trust, and she is always on the lookout for betrayal and is conscious that something is very wrong in her life. Her natural instinct is to heal rather than to kill, maim and destroy and this puts her at odds with everything her father does. Her relationship with her mentors Grace and Bronn has been good in the past giving her glimpses of hope, but even these relationships become remote and risky as she approaches her Initiation. A chance discovery, an unexpected alliance and an improbable future, combined with a mysterious history are all set to collide in a war-like confrontation, with a hint of fantasy.
This is an intensely powerful story, with romance, violence, extreme stress and internal and external conflict for the young protagonist. The story has fantasy, piratical scenarios and sadistic characters in abundance, and yet it is also the story of someone who desires to rise above her circumstances and change her destiny. This is a compelling story and readers will look forward to the rest of the trilogy of Isles of storm and sorrow. However, extreme violence described in the book makes this a book for older readers only - it is more Game of Thrones than Hunger games. The explicitly described violence can be quite confronting.
Themes: Conflict, Trust and distrust, Family, Violence, Good vs evil, Fantasy, Royalty.